José Martí

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Isaac Goldberg (essay date 1920)

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Last Updated on June 8, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1480

SOURCE: "The 'Modernista' Renovation," in Studies in Spanish-American Literature, Brentano's Publishers, 1920, pp. 1-100.

[In the excerpt that follows, Goldberg finds a tight bond between the literary and the political in both Martí's style and his views on aesthetics.]

The resemblances among the more noted exponents of modernism are many; there is the note of growing cosmopolitanism, the morbid tendency, the pale cast of thought, the resurgence of self. From among these figures, however, that of Martí, "the gallant paladin of Cuban freedom," stands out as an exception. True, Martí shared, and even contributed early vigor to, the dominant characteristics of modernism. In him, however, no morbidity, no preoccupation with metaphysical mysteries; he is the rebel in action,—a volcanic force driven by fate, like a Wandering Jew of liberty, through many lands and to many hearts. Like so many of his fellows, he became early embroiled in journalism, and, imbued with a passionate desire for his country's independence, voiced that ideal with the rashness of Latin youth. Before he was well along in his 'teens, he was deported to Spain for his "insurrecto" spirit, and while there was allowed to study law; he completed the course at Zaragoza. Returning to Spanish America he married in Mexico (1873) and five years later went back to the scene of his early efforts, conspiring against Spain under the guise of practising law. There follows (1879) a second deportation; this time, however, he managed to escape to France, eventually reaching New York, making his way to Venezuela and returning to New York, where he engaged in journalism for La Nación (Buenos Aires), wrote for the New York Sun on art, incessantly strove to maintain the fires of Cuban liberty burning in the hearts of the Spanish-Americans there, and published two collections of verse: Ismaelillo and Versos Sencillos. And now his labors, which had taken him to Paris, London, Mexico, the United States,—began to bear fruit. The final result, however, he was destined never to behold, for on the 19th of May, 1895, he was shot at Dos Rios, on his native soil, while attempting to leave the island.

So much of Martí (and how much it is!) belongs to history. But there is much of him that belongs to letters,—a little of his poetry (not so much as the generous Darío would lead one to believe from his paper on Martí in Los Raros) and a great deal of his prose. Even more, perhaps, of that elusive emanation which we term a man's spirit, only because language is still inadequate to the conveyance of human feeling.

Martí, in his glowing eulogy of Pérez Bonalde, has left us an excellent declaration of his views upon poetry. He reveals himself as an out-and-out apostle of personality, aware of time's conflicting currents, plunged in the struggle for liberty (of which he has a most undogmatic conception, comparable with Rodó' s vision of enlightened democracy), and hence with a trace of the utilitarian in his poetic demands. "The first labor of man," he proclaims, "is to reconquer himself. Men must be returned to themselves. . . . Only the genuine is powerful. What others leave to us is like warmed-over food." One element at least, in man's surroundings, responds to his desires: the free choice of educative influences. He can behold neither literary originality nor political liberty without spiritual freedom. Note this insistence upon self; upon the linking of the literary and political aspects of human activity. The multiple self of which Gutiérrez Nájera speaks and for which Martí combats is to blossom into Rodó's masterpiece, the Motivos de Proteo, which is one of the most suggestive of modern probings into the many latent possibilities of personality.

To Martí, the poem is in the man and in nature. He is so eager for spontaneity that he considers perfection of form as being purchased at the price of the fecundating idea. "A tempest is more beautiful than a locomotive." This spontaneity is what he so much admired in Bonalde's noted poem upon Niagara. "To polish is all very well, but within the mind and before the verse leaps from the lip." And if you object that such slavery to spontaneity injures the beauty of art, he replies, "He who goes in search of mountains does not pause to pick up the stones of the road. . . . Who does not know that language is the horseman of thought, and not its horse? The imperfection of human language,—its inadequacy to the expression of man's judgments, affections and designs is a perfect, absolute proof of the necessity for a future existence." Note, in passing, another difference between the active, optimistic, implicitly believing Martí and the foundering precursors of his day. "No, human life is not all of life! The tomb is a path, not an end. The mind could not conceive what it was incapable of realizing. . . ." And, returning to his manifesto of spiritual independence: "No, leave small things to small spirits. Lay aside the hollow, hackneyed rhymes, strung with artificial pearls, garlanded with artificial flowers. . . ." Away with affected Latinism and the bookish ills, counsels Martí. With lips tightly pressed, breast bare and clenched fist raised to heaven, demand of life its secret!

The translator of Helen Hunt Jackson's Ramona, the revealer of Walt Whitman, the man who imbibed law at Seville and Zaragoza, immersing himself at the same time in Santa Teresa, Cervantes, Calderón, Quevedo, did not manage to communicate the ardor of his theory to his verses, which are more simple and tender than would be expected. They are characteristically sincere, written "not in academic ink but in my own blood." At times they possess the suggestion of de Campoamor, as in the following excerpt:

Un beso!
Aquel día
Al despedirse se amaron.

Un beso!
Aquel día
Al despedirse lloraron.

A similar note of love and disillusionment rings from the brief drama that follows:

Entró la niña en el bosque
Del brazo de su galán,
Y se oyó un beso, otro beso,
Y no se oyó nada más.

Una hora en el bosque estuvo,
Salió al fin sin su galán:
Se oyo un sollozo; un sollozo,
Y despues no se oyó más.

It is not in his verse,—his paternal delights, his love plaints, his patriotic poems,—that we must seek the literary revolutionist, but in his prose. And such a prose! One countryman has called it the "symphony of a fantastic forest where invisible gnomes enchant our ears with a flock of harmonies, and our eyes with a tempest of colors." Despite an occasional involution of phraseology and a veritable cataract of images he makes delightful, yet impressive, reading. If Gutiérrez Nájera's prose is the graceful violin, alternately muted by hushed thoughts and swelled by passionate utterance, the prose of José Martí is a Wagnerian orchestra. It blasts with trumpet-like sonority; it scatters sparks; it is, indeed, as the man himself was, incendiary. His journalistic labors moulded a new standard; from him Darío learned much of the secret of such enduring correspondence as makes up the great poet's volumes of newspaper labors. Martí, too, is a notable wielder of the epigram; indeed, this aspect of his prose is strikingly illustrated by a recent collection,12 made up entirely of chips from the statue of his prose. In all the one hundred and forty-six octavo pages of the book there is a surprisingly low number of platitudes.

"There are cries that sum up an entire epoch," Martí has asserted. Martí himself was such a cry. Was it not he who opened one of his speeches with the affirmation that "I am not a man speaking, but a people protesting"? And he spoke not alone for Cuba, but for all of Spanish America. He is looked upon by those advanced minds in whom he sowed the seed of clamant freedom as not only a precursor of modernism in its narrower sense, but as one of the founders of literary, as well as political, Americanism. He was the proclaimer of a continental fatherland,—a Magna Patria. He did not believe in Cuba's annexation to the Republic of the North; knowing both nations intimately, he saw that only a virile Cuba could win the respect of a virile United States.

A remarkable union of the man of contemplation and the man of action, a vagrant pioneer in both mind and body, an innovator in language because of the new vision he beheld, Martí is enshrined in both the literature and the history of his people. His life was as noble as his writings; he died for that to which he had devoted his life, and Cuba is his monument.


. . .12Granos de Oro. Pensamientos Seleccionades en las Obras de José Martí. Por Rafael G. Argolagos. La Habana. 1918.

William Rex Crawford (essay date 1944)

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SOURCE: "The Cubans and Hostos," in A Century of Latin-American Thought, Harvard University Press, 1944, pp. 218-46.

[In the following essay, Crawford reviews Martí's life and thought and the different meanings he has held for different audiences. Ultimately, Crawford describes Martí as "a mystic, but a practical one; a Utopian but at the same time a realist."]

It is significant that even in the Homenaje to Varona about half of the pages are devoted to the man who in a spirit that was all flame and a life that was given single-heartedly to Cuba and to freedom summed up the most generous aspirations of his people. In spite of the forty-two volumes of his collected works, "the most extraordinary work which Martí left was not books, but his own life." 30

José Martí (1853-1895) was born in Cuba, the son of immigrants from Spain. In Cuba he passed the first seventeen years of his life; to Cuba he dedicated all of that life, most of which was passed in other lands; and at the end on Cuban soil he gave his mortal life for independence; in Cuban hearts he is not dead, but "goes marching on."

Martí's parents were poor, but in spite of poverty he secured the beginnings of an excellent education under Mendive, who also inspired in the youth those liberty-loving ideals which soon got him into trouble. We find him condemned to military prison for his writing at seventeen, and then at the end of 1870 exiled. On the boat to Spain he delivered a scorching harangue on the cruelties of the prison he had just left, and ended his portrait of the butcher who was its director by pointing an accusing finger at him, for he happened to be a fellow traveler, and from that day a traveler ostracized by his ship companions.

In Spain he found friendship, understanding, and greater sympathy for the cause of liberty than the colonial administration had led him to expect. It was the love for Cuba among his Madrid associates that led him to undertake his burning tract on the Political Prison of Cuba, a story that won him immediate fame. With an insatiable desire for knowledge, he also triumphed over rules to enter the university with only three years of liceo training. In the universities of Madrid and Zaragoza he had a meteoric career, astonishing the jury and audience by the brilliance and originality of his treatment of the theme—drawn by lot, as the custom is in most Latin universities—of Roman forensic oratory with special reference to Cicero. A grade of "distinguished" was the natural result, and foreshadowed the career in which he was to prove unequaled. But his efforts were not merely academic; the eager attention and affection which he met fortified his faith in the freedom of Cuba and his belief that he was born to achieve it.

By way of Paris, Mexico, and New York he returned to Havana, four years after leaving it for exile. The situation had not improved; right-thinking elements were scattered, and there was a work of organization to be done. It had to be done, however, from outside the country, by articles, letters, and personal contact, and he settled for a time in Mexico, making his living as he might, but living for the ever-present end, the freedom of Cuba. Cuba was, indeed, only a step to something larger, for Martí dreamed a dream of America. This became clearer to him in Mexico, where the difference between Europe and America was driven home, and he became, like most of our thinkers, a thoroughly American figure. He was hurt by the imitation of decadent Europe which he saw in some quarters, and advocated the development of American art, and life, and thought, American types of government and economic institutions, and an education adapted to American needs. Out of these, he held, would come the new man who should dwell in these new lands. The vision that never left him took shape in these years, and he began to express it in a vibrant style that lifted Latin-American journalism to new heights.

With the triumph of Porfirio Díaz, Martí felt that his dream for America was postponed. His parents, who had come from Cuba to live with him and struggle along doing military tailoring, were shipped back to Cuba, and Martí himself turned to Guatemala, where he added teaching to writing. He had many things to teach to a land that needed instruction and inspiration, and the ideas for several books were fermenting in his brain. The ideas were ideas for doing things, too, "teaching much, destroying the concentration of power in the hands of the few, restoring to men their personalities which have been trampled under foot or ignored."

In 1878 there was another brief stay in Cuba, where he learned at first hand of the forces that prevent successful revolution, the apathy that retards it. He planned to overcome the causes of failure, correct past mistakes, and execute a coup which would be victorious before the Spanish could summon reinforcements. The wife whom he had married in Mexico in 1877 accompanied him, and their son was born in Cuba. The boarding house in which they lived was used by Spanish army officers; Martí chatted in friendly enough fashion with them, but without concealing his opinions. His revolutionary opinions inflamed his hearers in a series of public addresses, Varona speaking on the same program at least once and getting those impressions of the young patriot which later he molded into the best of all orations on the significance of Martí's political career. Deported once more on September 29, 1879, Martí left for Spain, to be followed by reproachful letters from his wife, who felt abandoned, asking why he cannot be as other men are, why he must always sacrifice personal relations to the cause. He, in turn, felt abandoned, meeting no more understanding of the imperatives that guided him.

Soon he was again in New York, where so many years of his life were passed. Those who imagine that cultural relations date from 1938 may do well to thumb the pages of some seventeen volumes that Martí wrote about the men and doings of the United States, from Congress to high-school commencements, the new books and art exhibits, and horseracing and the trivia of everyday life. With universal curiosity and sensitivity he examined the life about him and described it to the readers of Latin-American periodicals for which he was a correspondent. It is unfortunate that of all he wrote one sentence primarily seems to stick in the minds of Latin Americans: "I know the monster, I have lived in its entrails." He was often sympathetic and well-informed, and his first impression was one of breathing the air of a free country where everyone was his own master and respected the equal rights of others. He determined to study the North American people, indeed thought he had done so in a month, and was not afraid to generalize.

For a time he lived in Caracas, where he found work as a teacher of French and French literature. Here he met Venezuela's grand old man and typical pensador, the respected and neglected Cecilio Acosta. Although Acosta was more the steadfast than the flamboyant type, Martí made a hero of him in the pages which now figure as an introduction to an anthology of Acosta's writings. Acosta had found a way of living under Guzmán Blanco; Martí, more impatient, could not restrain himself, and was summoned to the presence of the tyrant. The interview was stormy, and Martí saw that he had no other course than to leave the country.

Back in New York and Brooklyn he tried to pump enthusiasm into a Cuban colony profoundly discouraged by the failure of "the little war." He maintained his own convictions and hopes unshakably.

By this time his fame had spread through America. Sarmiento, in spite of certain differences of ideas, admired the torrent of his writing, but curiously seemed not too certain of his nationality: "A Cuban, I believe," were the words that accompanied his mention of Martí.

The febrile excitement of the "Apostle" grew in 1890 as it became apparent that the moment for striking in Cuba was approaching. But there were still years of pain, of anguished planning before on January 29, 1895, Martí gave the word for the uprising, then hastened to the Dominican Republic and from there to Cuba, to die on May 19 and become the Martí of legend and liturgy.

These are, in brief outline, the facts of his life. To one outside the tradition the bald recital hardly justifies the language that is used to express the adoration Cubans feel for Martí, and the reader must remind himself that it is unfair to tell even the story of Lear in brief, unadorned prose as Tolstoy did—that any life of man might be made to sound commonplace by telling the trains he took and the merely human episodes in a life that is more than human. If our word liturgy seems strangely strong, take for example the way in which Rodríguez-Embil refers to the mystery of Martí's conception, and adds, "Blessed be the parents of Martí." 31

The same writer apostrophizes Martí, evoking his immortal spirit, professing to put himself and his readers in the proper frame of mind to receive it. 32

Called to a messiahship, Martí was more the man of action, less the man of science than Varona; there were no hesitations, no reserves, no qualifications in his affirmations and negations. But he was also an artist and an intellect fertile in ideas. Ideas were for him weapons in the fight for a better world, in which freedom for Cuba was the first step. To preach this gospel and to redeem America, this was his obsession and his mission.

The wealth of ideas in Martí is almost entirely related to this central theme; he had little patience with literature without a social message. The characteristics of man and message have led to no little controversy among worshipers and students of Martí, who have called him now romantic, now the least romantic of leaders, have tried to claim him for Marxism, and have denied the similarity of his views to orthodox socialism or communism. These followers have used him to bolster their anti-United States emotions, and have found in him support for friendly collaboration with the northern republic.

While the imposition of system upon a body of thought that was not systematic would be an error, it seems possible to find a statement which wil convey the essential attitude of Martí. He was a mystic, but a practical one; a Utopian but at the same time a realist. He took up again the dreams of freedom and union that had been dreamed by Bolívar and inspired others with them. He hoped for a benevolent attitude on the part of the United States, and eventually for some kind of union in the whole Hemisphere, but never for a situation in which Latin America would be the vassal. The United States and Latin America represent two differing, and incomplete, conceptions of life; each can learn from the other. As they learn to know each other, each will come to understand and even to incorporate in its culture what the other has to offer. Martí would have welcomed the coöperation of the present moment, and would have rejoiced that it includes cultural elements as well as military and political. He distrusted the materialism of the United States and taught that rapid growth, when it is without firm spiritual foundations, is likely to be followed by rapid decline. For some eleven years, themes based on life in the United States occupied a major place in his writing, and his observations were often perspicacious and open-minded. Empty hatred had no place in them; it would not have been realistic, given the special situation of Cuba, and it would not have aided in the accomplishment of the great task. Cuba necessarily must seek cordial relations with its neighbor, but cordiality does not mean dependence, either economic or political, and it will be an empty cordiality until the heirs of the Puritans, racially intolerant, profiteers of the slave system, ignorant of the best of Latin America, learn to know and to respect the culture of the other American republics. A sincere and useful union is an ideal, but only under these conditions.

What Latin America has to learn is indicated by Martí's statement that he had never been surprised by what he saw in any country he had visited until he came to New York. Here he was amazed, and said goodbye forever to the idle life and "poetic inutility" of European countries. North America still showed that it owed its founding to men who had abjured feudalism and were seeking to establish a liberal way of life; Latin America too plainly revealed that it had been peopled by men who had no ideal beyond transplanting medieval customs and institutions to a new setting. After less than a month in the United States he understood all this, or thought he did.

On the question of his economic ideas, it behooves us to remember that Martí was no follower of another man's system, and that the keynote of his own thought was love, for love, he said, is the only force that builds, and the only ethical justification of force. What he took from other ideologists was assimilated and made to fit in with this principle and with the emotional, inspirational character of all his thought. When it is accepted that economics is a branch of ethics, Martí may be claimed as an economist, not before. If he urged a less bookish and more industrial and agricultural type of education, it was in his own special way, for teachers and county agents were to sow the seed of love and tenderness quite as much as they were to explain new fertilizers and cultivators. He did give a practical attention to forest conservation, the introduction wherever possible of modern industry, better salesmanship of the natural products which Latin America possesses in abundance. Mother earth, he held, in one way or another can of her bounty provide for the independence of the individual, and through him for the greatness of the nation, if we will work hard and avoid the suicidal folly of mono-culture. Laborers are needed in the vineyard, but let them bring their families and some skill and training, or they will prove enemies within the state.

Economics was important to him because without economic justice there can be no liberty for all. The sure road to colonial status is to permit oneself to be seller rather than buyer, and seller to a single customer.

Martí's economic program had a few simple planks: the division of the land, the education of the Indian, the opening of means of communication, dropping useless literary education on the elementary level and substituting a scientific type of training—then sitting back and watching the nation grow.

These practical suggestions have received less attention in the myriad lyrical meditations on Martí than the high-sounding phrases that sing and shout his final goals—liberty, happiness, justice, or the anti-imperialistic patriotism which made him insist that it was better to sink or swim by one's own efforts than to contract a debt of gratitude to a powerful neighbor, and the criticisms he pointed at that neighbor for its failure to solve its own problems of unity and well-being.

Whether his own solutions are not sometimes ingenuous or verbal is a question. It is all very well to agree with the finding of the anthropologists that there are no races and never have been, but to jump from that assertion to the conclusion that there can be no such thing as race hatred seems an exercise in logic rather than in social observation. To solve the population problem with the line, "There are no contradictions in nature; the earth will know how to feed all the men it creates," seems a bit less than adequate.33 It is perhaps unfair to judge him by single utterances; it is certainly unfair to forget that he grew and changed his ideas, was more individualistic, more the lover of beautifully linked sounds in his romantic and idealistic youth; more scientific, more materialistic, more revolutionary in his attitudes toward capitalism and imperialism and religion, more the tactician of an historic movement in the years after 1887. In the earlier period his reading, and to some extent his friendships, revealed the sentimental and romantic tendency. Later, in North America, we find him supplementing the pomp and circumstance of Victor Hugo with the writings of Spencer and Darwin, Marx and Henry George. He never became the disciple, and never ceased to emphasize spiritual factors in a way that to say the least is not predominant in Marx. He does epitomize the progress of Latin-American thought from enthusiasm for the ideals of the French Revolution, the rights of man, to the ideals of socialism, which he understood to mean an emphasis upon man's duties. His life was given in the struggle for political liberty, but he would believe he had failed utterly if salvation from one tyranny ended in our being delivered over to another, that of a class which exploits those below it in the social order. Only so close does he come to being a precursor of Lenin. . . .


. . . 30Pensamiento de América, [Mexico, 1942] II: Martí, p. x.

31 Luis Rodríguez-Embil, José Martí, el santo de

América (La Habana, 1941), p. 12.

32Id [ear io (Havana, 1930)], at 7.

33 Martí, Obras, [Havana, 1939-1940] XXIII, 59. . . .

Manuel Pedro González (essay date 1953)

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SOURCE: "Man of Culture and Ideals," "A Plutarchian Portrayer," and "Interpreter of the Social Panorama," in José Martí: Epic Chronicler of the United States in the Eighties, The University of North Carolina Press, 1953, pp. 14-17, 31-45, 46-55.

[Martí's primary Cuban biographer, González tackles various aspects of Martí's character and work in the three chapters that follow. In the first, González offers his overview of "the multiplicity of mental and spiritual powers in Martí." The second catalogues Martí's essays on "great men" of North Americaa series that brought these figures before many Latin American readers for the first time. The last treats Martí's views on U.S. culture, politics, and economics as they appeared in the series North American Scenes.]

Man of Culture and Ideals

A distinguished humanist of Columbia University wrote some time ago that the life of Martí "was one of the most intense, pure and noble that ever existed on the earth."1 But the intellectual in him, the man of culture and ideals, as well as the thinker, was as great as the man himself. It is not easy to understand how Martí could find time to read so extensively in the midst of the turmoil of activity that was his life in New York. Yet in the seventy-volume edition in which his writings have been collected, we find ample proof of his broad culture. He was widely read in literature, history, philosphy, and many other subjects. He was familiar with the Greek and Roman classics and with European culture, whether English or German, French or Italian. He was equally interested in music and followed the trends of painting in the United States and Europe with a keen and ever alert interest. How he could accomplish so much remains a mystery.

José Martí was one of the most brilliant and original prose writers of all time. He was also a poet of note, but much more "a poet of action." His poetic gifts are as evident in his prose as in his poems, and nowhere more patent than in his epistolary. The rich collection of his private letters, of which more than six hundred have been published, constitutes one of the most fascinating expressions of his powerful individuality and literary genius. It is the only aspect of his extensive writings in which we can appreciate all the manifestations of his multilateral personality: the warmth and tenderness of his heart, his infinite capacity for love and sympathy, his catholicity, his noble ideals, his vigorous—and sometimes exquisitely charming—style as a writer, his poetic qualities, his refinement of spirit and manners.

He was also an exceptional thinker without being what is commonly called a philosopher. He had little use for purely speculative thinking. He was more concerned with this world, particularly with mankind and its betterment, than with abstract or metaphysical speculation. To a certain extent, he could be called a pragmatist, but he can hardly be classified as a loyal disciple or follower of any school of philosophy, with the possible exception of the Stoic system. Stoic he certainly was, though more by temperament and behavior than by any process of ratiocination. As William Rex Crawford pointed out some years ago: ". . . he was also an artist and an intellect fertile in ideas. Ideas were for him weapons in the fight for a better world, in which freedom for Cuba was the first step. To preach this gospel and to redeem America, this was his obsession and his mission." 2

It would be interesting—and very illuminating—to compare here the ideology of Martí with that of Ralph Waldo Emerson, for whom Martí had unbounded admiration, and about whom he wrote a penetrating essay on the occasion of his death. There is a striking similarity between the two in many respects, notwithstanding the cultural, religious, and individual peculiarities that separate them. In spite of Emerson's violent reaction against many prejudices, traditions, and intolerances of his New England, he is a typical product of his cultural, social, and religious environment and of his times. So is Martí of his. Both epitomized and symbolized the finest human values of their respective peoples. But we find in Martí a warmth and tenderness, a capacity for compassion and sacrifice, a predisposition to serve and to redeem his fellow men which were lacking in Emerson—at least to the same degree. Emerson was more the man of thought; Martí was more apostolic, more fervent in his consuming love of mankind. Both were contemplative; but while the New Englander remained happy in his meditations, Martí yearned for a better world, longed for a more equitable and just social and economic order, and struggled and died fighting for his ideals. Nevertheless, in the history of American thought few men could be found whose ideas about nature and society offer a closer analogy to those of Martí.

When one realizes the multiplicity of mental and spiritual powers in Martí—the orator, thinker, poet, prose writer, political leader, statesman, apostle of freedom—and analyzes the high degree of perfection which all of these qualities reached in him, one is really astounded. Few men in history have been so generously endowed. Yet what is most admirable in him is the perfect unity and fullness of his personality, the harmonious completeness and integration of his being. In vain do we look for a flaw in his character or in his life. One may disagree with his philosophy or dislike his personal style as a writer, but among the thousands of books, pamphlets, and articles written about him, in three continents, no writer has failed to express almost reverent admiration for that consummate blending of unblemished moral qualities with supreme intellectual faculties which formed his unique personality. The man of action and the man of thought were so perfectly blended in him that one hesitates to venture a classification. Like Cervantes, Martí himself considered action more worthy and fruitful than mere words—whether written or spoken. In his infinite love of humanity, he once wrote: "Only the men of deeds remain; and above all the men whose deeds were guided by love. Only love penetrates and endures. . . . Only love builds." 3

One of the few North American critics acquainted with Martí's life and writings—the first one, perhaps, to discover him—aptly defined his personality in 1920 with the following words: "A remarkable union of the man of contemplation and the man of action, a vagrant pioneer in both mind and body, an innovator in language because of the new vision he beheld, Martí is enshrined in both the literature and the history of his people. His life was as noble as his writings; he died for that to which he had devoted his life, and Cuba is his monument." 4

He had unbounded love for humanity and blind faith in the final triumph of goodness over evil in the heart of men." Man is ugly, but mankind is beautiful," he said once, suggesting the idea that notwithstanding individual exceptions, mankind as a whole is generous and kind. Many of us will wonder at such an optimistic conclusion, which probably reflects more his own philanthropy and benevolence rather than an objective reality. In a recent article in the New York Times, Abel Plenn wrote: "Indeed, his exaltation of that love for humanity frequently transcends the humanism not only of the eighteenth and nineteenth century thought but of our own country as well, and makes him seem more like a spokesman of some future civilization. . . . [He was] a poet-philosopher who forced himself to become a fighter for oppressed humanity. For Martí, involved as he was in the immediate political fate of his native Cuba and other Latin American countries, was even more profoundly concerned with the lot of all mankind." 5

A Plutarchian Portrayer

The second arrival of José Martí in New York in August, 1881, coincided very closely with the criminal assault against President Garfield which put an end to his life a few weeks later. With this tragic event as a subject, José Martí began his contributions to Spanish American journals on August 20, 1881. He followed the prolonged agony of the martyred President with deep sympathy and shared in the nation's grief during the weeks that separated the fatal shooting from the actual death. He wrote extensively on President Garfield. Martí's generous spirit and his sympathy and admiration for the fortitude with which the victim endured suffering made his portrayal of Garfield extremely benevolent and perhaps too idealistic. It was written in a moment of national sorrow and he meant every word he wrote. 1

With the study of Garfield begins his long series of essays on political figures. Both Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry W. Longfellow died in 1882, a few months after the President succumbed. On these occasions Martí wrote the first of his critical studies on American men of letters. Up to that moment, cultural relations between the United States and Latin America were practically nonexistent. The lack of interest—and ignorance—had been reciprocal. Martí took it upon himself to reveal to his people the literary values of their northern neighbor. He chose for his first topic the most original and robust thinker the United States had produced, and, for his second, the most popular of its contemporary poets.

Martí's essay on Emerson was the first of a series on that famous poet-philosopher published in Spanish. It still stands out as one of the most powerful syntheses ever written on the Sage of Concord. It was a great revelation for his readers, and demonstrated the close ideological and ethical affinity of the two men. The following paragraph attests to the fidelity of Martí's interpretation and to the reverence with which he regarded Emerson. Unfortunately, it is not possible to translate the captivating beauty of the original.

He was tender towards men and loyal to himself. They had educated him to teach one creed, yet he passed on to the credulous his preacher's coat, feeling that he wore upon his shoulders the august mantle of Nature. Obedience to any system was from his viewpoint proper only to blind men and slaves; nor did he create one, for this seemed to him the course of weak, shallow, and envious minds. He submerged himself in Nature, and emerged radiant. He felt himself a man, and by reason of that, God. He wrote of what he knew, and if unable to observe, he remained silent. He revealed what he perceived, and venerated what was beyond his perception. He looked into the Universe with his own eyes, and spoke a language of his own. He was a creator by not wishing to be one. He felt divine raptures and lived in gratifying and celestial contemplations. He knew the ineffable sweetness of ecstasy. His mind was not for hire, nor his pen, nor his conscience. Like a star, he radiated light. In him the human being attained the highest degree of dignity.2

On Henry W. Longfellow he wrote twice, once before his death early in 1882, and later a magnificent obituary when the poet passed away. Both articles are equally beautiful and revealing of the lofty ideals of the poet and of his unblemished life. Of the man Longfellow, Martí wrote:

How perfect was his life! He possessed that mystic dignity proper of the noble souls. He had the healthy color of the pure; the magnificent pride of the virtuous; the generosity of the great; the melancholy of those still alive, and that longing for death that makes life beautiful.3

The most outstanding, perhaps, of all his critical essays on American men of letters, was the one he devoted to Walt Whitman in 1887. As in the case of Oscar Wilde, Emerson, Longfellow, and so many other great European and American contemporaries, he introduced Whitman to his readers. Very few Latin American poets or writers were acquainted with the author of Leaves of Grass in the eighties, and none had attempted to interpret his poetry. Even in the United States, Whitman was still considered something of a reprobate by churches and moral societies. Leaves of Grass was still anathema and its circulation through the mail still prohibited. Only among the literary elite was Whitman recognized as a great poet when Martí wrote his study.

The healthy pantheism of Whitman, his love for humanity, his mystic feeling of brotherhood, his pagan or Bacchic attitude toward life and nature, his delight in freedom and liberty, his almost religious exaltation of democracy, his scorn at, and defiance of, all forms of conventionalism and bigotry, his Biblical and unique style, found in Martí an admirable interpreter. Although many Spanish critics and poets have since written on Whitman, Martí's essay still remains the one most worthy of the poet in the Spanish language. This study was simultaneously published in both Mexico and Buenos Aires and provoked earnest interest in Whitman among the literati of the continent and gave impetus to studies and translations of his poems.

Martí also introduced for the first time to the Spanish reading public many other important and minor personalities of American literature and historiography. Among them were Washington Irving, Mark Twain, William Prescott, George Bancroft, Bronson Alcott and his daughter, Louisa May, the Quaker poet Whittier, Helen Hunt Jackson, whose Ramona he rendered beautifully into Spanish, and many others.

Another aspect of our culture never explored by Spanish American writers or critics before Martí was painting. For the first time in the Spanish language, Martí evaluated for Spanish Americans, in many articles and short references, the plastic arts—particularly painting—in the United States. He was deeply interested in this form of artistic expression and was familiar with its history and contemporary manifestations in both Europe and the Americas. At the same time that he propagated knowledge of the artistic progress of this country in Spanish America, he contributed to the esthetic education of North Americans. During the twelve years of his connection with the New York Sun, he kept the readers of that paper constantly informed of the European evolution in the field of plastic arts.

Equal in caliber to his critical studies of the men of letters, are his searching character sketches of prominent civic leaders of the day. Most of these men distinguished themselves for their integrity and noble qualities, for their profound sense of social responsibility, and for the tenacity and valor with which they fought to defend their ideals. Most of them advocated unpopular causes. None submitted to what is called "group thinking," "group psychology," or "group prejudices and fanaticism." They were truly free and great men who struggled heroically, sometimes against the bigotry and stupidity prevalent in their social environment. Martí admired these rebels heartily. In them he saw perfect examples of the ideal citizens of a free and democratic republic. Their respective lives and courage inspired some of his best psychological and biographical studies. Because none of these venerable abolitionists and rebellious defenders of freedom and social justice occupied important political positions, history has practically forgotten them, and the youth of today in the United States, hardly knows who they were. In Spanish America, on the other hand, thanks to Martí's writings, the memory of these men is still very much alive.

Among the abolitionists, none was more admired by Martí than Wendell Phillips. This Bostonian was an aristocrat in blood and wealth, but even more in spirit and deeds. Wendell Phillips was an apostle of abolition and social reforms who consecrated his life to these ideals. He preached his crusade with great fervor and eloquence. He was a lawyer by training and vocation, but he never practised his profession, because to do so he would have had to sign an oath upholding the constitution. Since the Constitution seemed to sanction the ignominy of slavery, he refused to take the constitutional oath and devoted his life to the task of erasing that blot from American history. With unflinching bravery and fiery words he defied the prejudices and the animosity of the masses, the bitter opposition of those who profited from slavery and defended it, and the threats of his enemies. Nobody during the thirty years preceding the Civil War was a more ardent, unselfish, and eloquent crusader than Wendell Phillips. Nobody, afterwards, struggled more tenaciously and more generously against the forces of greed and the sanctity of wealth. With uncommon courage he denounced to the end of his life the avarice and the injustices of plutocracy, and consecrated himself to the defense of the humble and the despoiled. In his altruistic wrath, he may have erred or lost sight of the realities and possibilities of his time, but as R. H. Tawney says, "When to speak is unpopular, it is less pardonable to be silent than to say too much."4 On the occasion of Phillips' death, in 1884, Martí wrote three articles. The last two in particular constitute a fervid tribute to that most extraordinary man and orator, whose life and character in so many ways resembled those of Martí. 5

To the group of great abolitionists also belonged Henry Ward Beecher, a most remarkable Protestant minister. Though less cultured and not so perfect an orator as Phillips, he was none-theless a persevering and devoted combatant in the glorious struggle. Martí had little use for organized religion or for mere church men of any denomination. In Henry Ward Beecher, what he admired and extolled were not the attributes of the preacher but the sterling qualities of the man and his philanthropic endeavors. 6

Martí did not approve of vast fortunes. The idea of a man's accumulating wealth at the expense of masses of workers who lacked the bare necessities of life was repugnant to him. The spectacle of so much misery existing side by side with so much ostentatious luxury seemed to him a social crime. We find it denounced time and again in his writings. In 1883, exactly fifty years before the inauguration of the New Deal, Martí propounded the same social philosophy when, referring to the poverty of the proletarian districts of New York, he wrote: "And I say that this is a public crime, and that it is the duty of the state to put an end to unnecessary misery." 7

Nevertheless, Martí did not condemn the acquisition of wealth by honest means. What he repudiated was the idea of elevating the conquest of material success to the rank of an ideal, and the admiration prevalent in American society for those who achieve it regardless of the means employed. He had only scorn for what he called the "cult of wealth" in the United States. Thus he stigmatized it in 1888:

. . . the disproportionate craving for material wealth, the scorn for those who have not acquired it, and the servile admiration for those who obtain it, even though at the cost of their honor or by criminal means, brutalizes and corrupts nations. Without question, those who favor or practice the cult of wealth should be denied social esteem and considered an insidious and destructive force within the country, like an infection, or like Shakespeare's Iago. It is admirable to acquire wealth by honest and vigorous labor, its accumulation by destructive or deceitful means which dishonor those who employ them and corrupt the nation in which they are practiced, is palpable proof of moral turpitude and shamelessness, and a crime worthy of legal punishment. The rich, like thoroughbred horses, should have the pedigree of their wealth where everyone can view it. 8

He had as much contempt for those who accumulate wealth at the expense of others as he had admiration for some of the philanthropic millionaires who used their riches to improve the lot of the less fortunate.

One of those rare specimens was Peter Cooper, great industrialist, inventor, and benefactor of mankind. Marti had almost reverent admiration for him. Not even Emerson inspired a more ardent obituary from his pen than did Peter Cooper at the time of his death in 1883. Notice the filial veneration with which he begins the essay:

Flags are at half mast; hearts grieve: Peter Cooper is dead. He leaves behind thousands of grateful and devoted workers. I was not born in this land, nor did he ever know me. Yet, I loved him as a father. If ever our paths had crossed, I would have kissed his hand. 9

Another millionaire who merited Marti" s admiration was Courtlandt Palmer, one of the most eccentric members of New York's aristocracy in the eighties. Palmer was a passionate lover and defender of freedom in the broadest meaning of the word. He advocated not only political freedom, but freedom to think, to believe or not to believe—in God or anything else. He was called the "socialist millionaire" because of his humanitarian ideals and because he would invite socialist and anarchist thinkers to lecture in the debating academy which he founded. He himself was an atheist, but he would invite ministers and priests of all creeds to expound their respective philosophies side by side with agnostics and atheists. Courtlandt Palmer was not afraid of so-called subversive ideas, nor did he refuse the rostrum of his debating society to those who preached revolutionary doctrines. For him culture and society were not static or stagnant organisms, but dynamic, perpetually evolving, ever changing; and whenever culture and society cease to renovate themselves by mutating and assimilating new ideals and goals, they decay and die. Palmer, although very rich, was not afraid of change. His home was actually a temple without liturgy or theology, in which all social, political, philosophical, or religious gospels could be preached. He believed only in one religion: the brotherhood of man. Palmer was a devoted disciple of Auguste Comte and his positivistic school. Martí was the opposite, but he had a profound admiration for the sincerity, the courage, and the moral and intellectual integrity of Palmer and wrote a sympathetic panegyric upon his death in 1888.

It does not come within the scope of this brief study to give a full account of the importance of José Martí's articles analyzing public men and the political panorama of his times. They constitute the most valuable aspect of his voluminous reporting about the United States. Here will be given only a brief résumé of his keen judgments of public leaders and his realistic analysis of political life in the eighties.

Martí was attracted first by the personalities that dominated both parties in his day. We have already seen how he began with a series of articles in which he reported minutely the process of President Garfield's struggle for life, and climaxed them with a biographical and psychological study of the man and his importance in the politics of his time. Martí had an almost religious reverence for the great North American leaders of the past, particularly for Thomas Paine, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln. He wrote several times about Washington, and though no extensive articles on the other three can be found in his writings, he made hundreds of admiring references to them.

But he was more concerned with contemporary politics and politicians than with historical heroes. He set himself to study the intricacies and intrigues of public life in the United States, and the shoddy economic interests that, behind the curtain, manipulated the politicians of his time. It is astonishing to discover what a profound knowledge he had of the corruption and chicanery prevalent in his day. We must remember that those were the post-Grant administration years in which big business controlled the government and bribed legislators and executives to obtain advantageous and unlawful concessions. Never in the history of the country had corruption in public life reached such scandalous proportions as between 1870 and 1890. Martí witnessed this pernicious influence of big business in public affairs, and also the healthy reaction initiated during the first administration of Grover Cleveland. He recorded both in a long series of vivid articles that constitute today an excellent source of information on the political mores and men of that period.

The two dominant figures of the Republican party at the time that Martí began to write on contemporary political activity, never realized their presidential aspirations. Both are almost forgotten today, but their reciprocal hostility, their implacable rivalry, and their intrigues against each other dominated the policy of the party for years, and decided the political fortunes of many a minor personality. They were Roscoe Conkling, Senator from New York, lawyer, great orator, and powerful leader, who fully controlled his home state, and James G. Blaine of Maine, brilliant, skillful, and equally powerful. They were two giant contenders who never compromised or surrendered their respective ambitions to the advantage of the other. The consequence of this animosity between Blaine and Conkling was the nomination of James A. Garfield and Chester A. Arthur in the Republican convention of 1880. Both Conkling and Blaine were carefully studied by Martí, as we shall see presently.

Martí did not write his penetrating analysis of President Arthur until 1886, when Garfield's running mate and successor died. It is one of the best biographical and psychological sketches he ever wrote. Here his epigrammatic and aphoristic style found perfect expression. It is a much more realistic portrayal than that of Garfield. Martí never deprived any of the men he portrayed of the credit due them. Thus, in the following paragraphs, he depicts perfectly both the astute politician and the urbane man that Arthur was:

The history of Arthur's political career is to be found in the intrigues of his party. He never progressed or advanced by himself and because of his own merits, but as a representative of the clique he served within the party.

None of his defeats or triumphs, none of his notable achievements, is a national event in which great ideas clash or are controverted. They are a mere product of intraparty squabbles in which the rival personalities ravage one another's gains and reputation.

Once in office, it is true, he would win the good will of everybody through his gentlemanly moderation, his suave way of tempering his energy, his sincere kindness, and, above all, through his gracious and courteous manners and dignified simplicity, which enhance personal merit and sometimes simulate it or substitute for it.

But if he was affectionate with his subordinates and irreproachable in his handling of public funds, he never failed to take advantage of the influence with which these very acts provided him. Gradually he wove such a strong and tightly knit political organization that throughout the state there was not a single district without an agent employed by him, nor a convention in which his candidates did not emerge triumphant, nor an intrigue possible without his consent, nor an election assured except through his intervention. . . . 10

He did not sacrifice his honesty to his ambition. This was his glory in the desolation of his political catastrophe . . . he died celebrated for his personal charms, and for having redeemed himself. 11

Among Martí's most enduring biographical studies is the one he devoted to General Ulysses S. Grant upon his death in 1885. Grant's military career and achievements, his shortcomings and limitations as president, his unfortunate business connections and scandals, and his final trials and tribulations, which redeemed him in the eyes of the public from his errors and the lax political morals of his administration, are sympathetically but realistically described by Martí in this Plutarchian biography.

There were other famous generals that attracted Martí's interest and whom he depicted with insight and imagination. All of them were heroes of the Civil War, and in later years figured more or less prominently in the political life of the country. When they died, Martí devoted a concise biographical sketch to each one. The most important were the following; T. A. Hendricks, vice-president under Cleveland, a mediocre politician, more ambitious than able, in Martí's estimate; Winfield S. Hancock, inexperienced in the political game, unsuccessful as a candidate of the Democrats in 1880, but prominent as a martial figure and a man endowed with excellent moral qualities; Philip Sheridan, of whose military exploits Martí wrote a vigorous synthesis; George McClellan, opposing candidate to Lincoln, culturally superior to most of his colleagues in arms, and equal to any of them because of his sterling character; John A. Logan, a picturesque orator, running mate of James G. Blaine in 1884 on the Republican ticket; and Benjamin Harrison, Republican presidential candidate elected in 1888.

Among the other political figures portrayed by Martí with great keenness and justice was Samuel J. Tilden, Democratic candidate in 1876, about whom Martí wrote several times with intense sympathy. The patriotic and self-sacrificing attitude with which Tilden accepted the unfair solution given by Congress and the Supreme Court to the indecisive election of that year, won the admiration of Martí and endeared Tilden to him. For this reason, his appraisal of that political contender is perhaps more generous than that of some American historians.

Martí did not live long enough to witness the end of the second administration of Grover Cleveland. Furthermore, in the year 1892, when Cleveland was elected for the second time, Martí stopped writing for the Spanish American press and devoted his entire energy to the task of organizing the Cuban Revolutionary Party and preparing the War of Independence. Had he been able to scrutinize Cleveland's second term as closely as he did the first, and had he written his conclusions, we may be sure that his judgment of Cleveland would have been very different from the one he left us. In his second administration, Cleveland became much more reactionary and imperialistic than he had revealed himself to be during his first term in the White House. Martí's rating of Cleveland is, therefore, far more laudatory than that of some historians.

Who, other than scholars, remembers today Judah P. Benjamin, Senator from Louisiana and later Attorney General and Secretary of State of the Confederation? Yet Benjamin was one of the most brilliant and cultivated minds of his time. After the Civil War he went to England and started life anew in London when he was already over sixty. Soon he became known as a writer of note and a pillar of British jurisprudence. When Benjamin died in 1884, Martí published a subtle and concise analysis of his life which has won the unique distinction of being available in English translation. 12

Roscoe Conkling has already been mentioned. To him, as to so many other once famous orators, could be applied the following words written by Martí apropos of Wendell Phillips: "An orator shines for his speeches; but he remains only for what he does. If he does not sustain his words with his acts, his fame will evaporate even before he dies because he has been standing on a column of smoke." 13

Conkling was probably the most eloquent and cultured of all political orators in the seventies and early eighties. He was a master of this art at the early age of twenty-five. He had the imagination, the fluency of words, the talent, the culture, even the handsome and dignified physical appearance that a truly great speaker should possess. But Conkling—like his worthy and inexorable rival within the party, James G. Blaine—used his intellectual powers and dexterity to serve his personal ambitions rather than the people. His extraordinary adroitness was always employed to enhance his political fortunes, to defend the interests of big business and the ruling class, or to crush his enemies, but never to uplift the humble or to improve their lot. He was aristocratic by temperament, arrogant, and contemptuous. In spirit and action, he was the exact antithesis of Wendell Phillips. While Phillips, notwithstanding his aristocratic lineage, cast his fate with the slaves and the workers, and devoted his life to their redemption, Conkling remained faithful to the conception of a plutocratic republic, governed by the wealthy. He had little or no use for the masses. As Martí says, his ambition was not to serve the people but to be served by them. With the ascension to power of Garfield and Blaine, Conkling was finally crushed by the latter. During the last five years of his life, he suffered, with stoic dignity, the humiliation of his defeat and the ingratitude and betrayal of his friends and colleagues within the party. In the misfortunes of his last years, he acquired a moral stature that his great triumphs never gave him. Martí expressed this idea in words that read as a perfect epitaph for Conkling: "He achieved glory in his defeat. He began to be great when he ceased to be ambitious." 14

Given the ethical gulf that separated Martí from Conkling, we can hardly expect him to have written a panegyric when Conkling died in 1888. Yet the interpretative essay does complete justice to its subject. In the very opening paragraph we find a mixture of admiration for Conkling's mental powers and his mastery of the art of handling and dominating men, as well as scorn for the selfish use that he made of his great gifts. Martí begins his splendid portrait with the following words: "It will be difficult to find a more patent demonstration of the sterility of selfish talent than that given by the magnificent orator who died yesterday—the imperial commissar of Grant, the systematic genius during the presidency of Garfield, the implacable enemy of Blaine, the most brilliant and cultured of all the orators of the United States: Roscoe Conkling." 15

Martí shows in this study a profound knowledge of the idiosyncrasies of Conkling and of the political game in which he played such a paramount role. He demonstrates here his rare insight and acumen in judging men and discovering their innermost impulses and ambitions. In depicting Conkling, Martí deprecates his lack of generosity—his arrogance and contemptuous attitude towards the humble classes. At the same time, he could not but admire Conkling's superb eloquence, his talent and culture, and above all his personal honesty at a time when integrity was not fashionable in public life.

Interpreter of the Social Panorama

We come now to the most copious part of Martí's reporting on the United States. It comprises fourteen out of the seventeen volumes he wrote about this country. The other three deal with men of letters, political leaders, and great personalities of various kinds, as we have already seen. The compilers of Martí's works gave the title of North American Men to these three volumes and North American Scenes to the other fourteen. A more appropriate title for the latter would have been "The North American Panorama." It would have conveyed a more precise idea of the full coverage Martí gives to every aspect of North American life in his articles to La Nación of Buenos Aires and to El Partido Liberal of Mexico.

A significant feature of this marvelous reporting is the fact that most of it takes the form of letters addressed to the respective editors of the above-mentioned journals. It is a subtle manifestation of that intense humaneness that prevailed in everything that Martí did or wrote. He had to feel that he was communicating personally and directly with some concrete and congenial reader who would understand and share his thoughts, his worries, and his emotions. All his chronicles are imbued with his own spirit; all of them are permeated with that tender love of humanity that characterized his personality and his life. Every page that he wrote is saturated with that "milk of human kindness" so bountiful in him.

Martí never ceased to consider the United States as the greatest experiment in democratic government that mankind had witnessed. His admiration for the wisdom and civic virtues of the founders and great leaders of the past never faltered. To the end of his life, he believed that the country's political institutions were exemplary. But his initial admiration for the democratic experiment suffered a severe setback when he began to watch it in practice. One perceives in his writings a sense of disappointment creeping in little by little. As he observed the shameful use that a good many politicians were making of democracy, how the financial barons exploited it to their greedy advantage, and how miserably the masses of voters failed at the polls, some degree of disillusion was inevitable. 1

The worst aspect of American political activity, and the one that Martí criticized most often and most severely, was the unholy alliance between big business and professional patriots and politicians. This pernicious influence of bankers, manufacturers, and industrialists in all branches of the government frequently converted American democracy into a mockery and a farce. Martí had utter contempt for both types: the avaricious briber or financier, and the despicable politician who would, for a price, betray the trust and the interest of the people who had elected him. Martí castigated both with the sternest words he ever employed.2 He fully agreed with—and quoted—Doctor Johnson's epigram that patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.

Another aspect of the political mores that he loathed was the lack of honesty, decency, and dignity during a presidential campaign. A good example of his expressed distaste for the crude spectacle follows. Although written in 1885, it has a rather sad actuality for every honest and enlightened observer of the present-day political scene. Said Martí:

A presidential campaign in the United States is a coarse and nauseating affair. By May, even before the nomination of party candidates, the contest is on.

Once the candidates are designated by the Conventions, all sense of dignity is totally forgotten Mud-slinging becomes rampant. Deliberate lies and exaggerations abound. Blows are exchanged below the belt; candidates knife each other in the back. Every kind of infamy is judged to be legitimate. Any blow is justified if it stuns the political enemy. The man who can devise and carry out a villainous scheme, boasts proudly of his ingenuity. Even prominent men consider themselves released from the slightest obligations imposed by honor. Behind every sentence, the pistol butts employed in the elections of yesteryear—and even occasionally today—can still be perceived. It is a brutal custom that will disappear with the passage of time. In those months it is useless to scan the papers proclaiming the most contradictory opinions. An honest observer does not know how to analyze a battle in which all participants campaign in bad faith, and feel justified in doing so. One newspaper denies openly what another openly affirms. Deliberately, each one suppresses any item that might speak well of the opposing candidate. They completely disregard, on those days, the pleasure of honoring. . . . 3

To understand the scorn Martí felt for these unpleasant manifestations and the failures of democracy in this country, we must remember that he struggled for it all his life and, therefore, idealized it. To see democracy scoffed at and ridiculed by the very persons charged with the duty of defending it, was a painful experience for him. Moreover, the United States was the freest country in the world, and the one that for a century had been upheld as a shining example of democracy. Given his profound faith in this political system, it must have been very disquieting and even foreboding for him to see how poorly it was working here after a century of experimenting with it.

Another aspect of the United States that disturbed Martí was the materialistic character of its civilization and the lust for power evident in many of the economic and political leaders. We find in his writings many cogitations on this trait of American character which he considered detrimental to the future of its culture, and an omen that presaged no good for his Latin America. 4

The immoderate preponderance in this country of materialism over spiritual and cultural values he described many times with no little anxiety. This proclivity if not arrested in time—he reflected—would give a Phoenician orientation to the civilization of the United States and would exhaust itself in an ephemeral effort to conquer wealth. Thus he pondered in 1885: "Which spirit will prevail in the North American civilization: the Puritanical one, which represents the most judicious and transcendental affirmation of human rights, or the Carthaginian one of conquest and sordid profits?" 5

From what has been said and transcribed we should not draw the wrong conclusion that Martí condemned wealth or the pursuit of it. He was far too much of a realist to concur in such an absurdity. What he abhorred was the propensity in this country to elevate the conquest of material wealth to the dignity of a national ideal, to the detriment of other values. The following remarks, written in 1887, prove that the knew how important and necessary material prosperity is for the well-being and stability of a country. They also demonstrate his admiration for our economic success. Similar expressions of pleasure in our improved standards abound in his chronicles:

After an exploring look along these streets, and around these ports and cities, one thinks involuntarily of seas and mountains. How quietly impressive! How serene and powerful! And this prodigious nation has come to life as a result of the union in good faith, of America and Work, in the house of Liberty. To possess it is to guarantee the stability of the republic. A poor nation will be continually in anguish and revolt. To raise living standards is to create defenders of personal liberty and independence, and enough public spirit for their defense. 6

Equally numerous are his reproaches of the perennial pursuit of material success and the idealization of it that he detected in our milieu. He deplored the scant recognition granted here to men of culture who had no social significance. The exaltation of money-making and of the money-makers, he considered a malady and a serious deficiency in American culture which would eventually undermine and corrupt our society. 7

The acute social conflicts that Martí witnessed during the fifteen years of his residence in New York, attracted his interest and became the subject of some of his most searching chronicles. His descriptions and analyses of the social ferment taking place within the proletariat some seventy years ago, constitute one of the most interesting aspects of his exegesis of this country. Some of these articles possess an enduring quality not only because of their intrinsic literary value, but also because of the insight with which Martí studied the problems and the ideas expressed in them. They are an excellent guide to discovering Martí's social ideology. In these chronicles he revealed himself as an indefatigable fighter for economic justice. He followed the struggle with keen interest, and at times with indignation. He never failed to express his deep sympathies for the workers and to denounce the avarice of the corporations and the great injustices they perpetrated. In spirit, he was actually a fighter in the labor ranks.

What distressed him most was to see so much poverty amidst so much wealth concentrated in a small percentage of the population. He could not understand the callousness with which the big corporations exploited and abused the working class. Four years before he came to the United States, Peter Cooper, a millionaire himself, had said: "There is fast forming in this country an aristocracy of wealth—the worst form of aristocracy that can curse the prosperity of any country. . . . Such an aristocracy is without soul and without patriotism. Let us save our country from this, its most potent, and, as I hope, its last enemy." 8

The arrogance and the impunity with which the corporations would transgress the law and perpetrate their injustices without even moral sanction, was interpreted by Martí as a sinister omen for the democratic institutions of the United States and for Latin America as well. The unbridled power of the potentates of banking, industry, and commerce, and the rampant impudence with which they would bribe executives and legislators and corrupt the political life were for him foreboding signs of a deep change in the fundamental character of the republic. He wrote in 1889: "What is apparent is that the nature of the North American government is gradually changing in its fundamental reality. Under the traditional labels of Republican and Democrat, with no innovation other than the contingent circumstances of place and character, the republic is becoming plutocratic and imperialistic." 9

The average wages of the time fluctuated in most industries between fifty cents and one dollar for ten hours of labor. Yet a rapidly expanding and prosperous economy was producing fat returns for the investors and employers. Each day the tremendous influx of immigrants increased the ranks of the unemployed. The supply of labor was, therefore, much greater than the demand, and employers used this advantage to exploit the workers to the limit. Capital fought tooth and nail the timid attempts to organize labor unions. The police were ever ready to suppress strikes and to protect capitalists' use of strike-breakers. Martí condemned, time and again, the violent methods advocated by the anarchist leaders, with the same energy with which he condemned the sordid employers. Indicative of his position in the great battle between the rich employers and the needy workers are the following paragraphs:

The strike is on, a strike of thousands of men, in New York and Brooklyn. . . .

In their negotiations with the employees, the coach companies refuse to deal with the representatives appointed by the workers' guild: the employees, in mass, abandon the stables, in demand, not of higher salary, nor seeking fewer hours, but because they are to be deprived of the right of association; the companies, which are nothing more than associations linked together in mutual defense against the workers, want each worker to stand alone, facing them with his two hands and his hunger, without organization or support. In this way the employer can lower wages with impunity; and with the butter that they remove from the bread in 3000 homes, they purchase another horse for their coach, another seal coat for their daughter who already has one, another black-nosed dog for their mistress! 10

Intimately allied with the problem of relations between capital and labor in that period, was the torrent of immigration already referred to. Not only did the hundreds of thousands of European and Asiatic workers who arrived yearly in the United States create very serious social problems, but they also brought with them social, political, and economic philosophies foreign to the American milieu. Since the early nineteenth century, some of these theories had been gathering momentum in Europe, and had agitated that continent. Along with the millions of stepchildren that Europe dumped on these shores during the last three decades of the century, she exported socialism, communism, anarchism, nihilism, Marxism, and several other social creeds. With these doctrines came their fiery apostles and propagandists to preach and foment social unrest. The extreme poverty and misery that afflicted the working class at the time, plus the greed and cruelty of big capital, served as a fertile ground for the dissemination of the new ideas. The years 1880 to 1895 constitute a period of great social ferment which Martí observed and analysed with vision and discernment in a long series of articles which can still be read today with interest and profit. 11

Only a few of the infinite number of subjects pertaining to American life that Martí discusses in his articles have been touched upon. It is not possible to give here even an index of those not alluded to, notwithstanding the fact that among them we could find some of the most illuminating essays he ever wrote. Examples of these are the two articles in which he analyzes the Catholic problem in the United States,12 which should be available in English.

Martí commented several times on the country's educational system for which he had little respect. What was repugnant to him was the proclivity in both elementary and high schools to strangle the originality latent in most children, thereby developing a "herd spirit." He also criticized, in the following and other similar remarks, the meager cultural content of the curriculum at both levels:

To read, to write, to count: that is all they think children need to know. But to what avail is reading if the children are not imbued with the love for it, with the conviction that it is pleasant and useful, and through the harmony and greatness of knowledge, with a sense of joy in the upward surge of the soul? To what avail is the knowledge of writing if the mind does not feed on ideas, nor is the taste for them encouraged?

To count, yes, that they teach in abundance.

When they have already taught them—youngsters five years of age!—to count from memory to 100, these children are still unable to read a syllable.

From memory! Thus they crop the intellect, as they do the hair. Thus they stifle the individual in the child, instead of encouraging the movement and expression of originality that every creature bears within him. Thus they produce a repulsive and sterile uniformity, a kind of liveried intelligence. 13

The inevitable sequel to such a deficient method and to the absence of cultural background, Martí contended, was the emergence in the United States of the one-track man, routinary and mechanized, skillful in just one trade, with only one goal in life—the conquest of material wealth—but devoid of intellectual interests outside of what pertains to his little field of specialization. If prolonged indefinitely, this system of education and this obsession about money, would convert the United States into a country of technical barbarians. 14

The commemoration of certain historical events, like the first centennial of the Congress of Philadelphia, of Washington's election, or the inauguration of the monument to the Pilgrims, etc., afforded him the opportunity to demonstrate how profound his knowledge of United States history was. Of great literary value are his epic descriptions of the inauguration of the Statue of Liberty, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Charleston earthquake in 1886, Coney Island, Buffalo Bill and his circus, the founding of a town in Oklahoma, student life in our great colleges, the beaches in summer and the winter resorts in the mountains, and many other aspects of American life and society. He reported with sympathy and sometimes with delight on every imaginable aspect of the nation's way of living: how Christmas was celebrated, the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, and Easter; theatres, operas, concerts, and art exhibitions; labor rallies, parades, political meetings, boxing matches, baseball and football games; high school and college commencements, summer vacations; important political, social, or cultural events; famous restaurants like Delmonico's in New York; the fashions in every season; the distinguished artists who visited New York; everything, from foreign policy to Easter eggs. Never in the history of Spanish American literature has a country been described so minutely and so beautifully by any writer. To read these narratives is like watching a kaleidoscopic panorama or movie. Thanks to Martí's writings, the Spanish American readers of the last years of the century knew more about the United States than about any of their sister republics.



1 Federico de Onís, Antología de la poesía españolae hispano-americana (Madrid: Publicaciones de la "Revista de Filología Española," 1934), p. 34.

2 William Rex Crawford, A Century of Latin American Thought (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press. 1944), pp. 230-231.

3 Lex, II, 1845.>

4 Isaac Goldberg, Studies in Spanish-American Literature (New York: Brentano's, 1920), p. 52.

5 Abel Plenn, "Book Review," New York Times, July 2, 1950, p. 4.


1 Here is an example of the lyric exaltation of President Garfield in which Martí endows him with the same virtues he himself possessed:

Vivir en estos tiempos y ser puro, ser elocuente, bravo y bello, y no haber sido mordido, torturado y triturado por pasiones; llevar la mente a la madurez que ha menester, y guardar el corazón en verdor sano; triunfar del hambre, de la vanidad propia, de la malquerencia que engendra la valía, y triunfar sin oscurecer la conciencia ni mercadear con el decoro; bracear, en suma, con el mar amargo, y dar miel de los labios generosos, y beber de aire y agua corrompidos, y quedar sano: ¡he ahí maravillas! ¡Cuánta agonía callada! ¡Cuánta batalla milagrosa! ¡Cuánta proeza de héroe! Resistir a la tierra es ya, hoy que se vive de tierra, sobradísima hazaña, y mayor, vencerla. (Ibid., XXVIII, 146.)

2 Lex, I, 1054.

3Ibid, p. 1195.

4 R.H. Tawney, Religion and the Rise of Capitalism (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Co., Inc., 1950), p. 235.

5 In the history of the United States, Wendell Phillips symbolizes the moral conscience of Puritan New England better perhaps than any other reformer. Phillips is one of the country's truly great human and ethical forces, whose spiritual stature has not yet been duly recognized. At a time when he was condemned and vilified by the advocates and beneficiaries of the big profits system, José Martí proclaimed him as one of the noblest men this country had produced.

6 Reiterating the concept expressed in note 17 above, Martí wrote of Beecher:

Nada es un hombre en sí, y lo que es, lo pone en él su pueblo. En vano concede la Naturaleza a algunos de sus hijos cualidades privilegiadas, porque serán polvo y azote si no se hacen carne de su pueblo, mientras que si van con él, y le sirven de brazo y de voz, por él se verán encumbrados, como las flores que lleva en su cima una montaña. Los hombres son productos, expresiones, reflejos: viven en lo que coinciden con su época, o en lo que se diferencian marcadamente de ella; lo que flota les empuja y pervade: no es aire sólo lo que les pesa sobre los hombros, sino pensamiento: éstas son las grandes bodas del hombre; ¡sus bodas con la patria!

¿Cómo, sin el fragor de los combates de su pueblo, sin sus antecedentes e instituciones, hubiera llegado a su singular eminencia Henry Ward Beecher, pensador inseguro, orador llano, teólogo flojo y voluble, pastor hombruno y olvidadizo, palabra helada en la iglesia? Nada importa que su secta fuera más liberal que sus rivales; porque los hombres, subidos ya a la libertad entera, no necesitan de una de sus gradas.

Pero Beecher, criado en la hermosura y albedrío del campo por padres en quienes se acumulaban por herencia los caracteres de su nación, creció, palpitó, culminó como ésta, y en su naturaleza robusta, nodriza de su palabra pujante y desordenada, se condensaron las cualidades de su pueblo, clamó su crimen, suplicó su miedo, retemblaron sus batallas y sus victorias. El pudo ser la maravilla: ¡un hombre libre que vive en una época grandiosa! (Lex, I, 1064.)

7 1 have translated the last sentence only. Following is the complete description. Indignation and tenderness are mingled here with pity for the innocent victims and rebuke for a social and economic system that tolerated such wretchedness amidst so much showy luxury:

. . . allá en las calles húmedas donde hombres y mujeres se amasan y revuelven, sin aire y sin espacio . . . allá en los edificios tortuosos y lóbregos donde la gente de hez y de penuria vive en hediondas celdas, cargadas de aire pardo y pantanoso; allí, como los maizales jóvenes al paso de la langosta, mueren los niños pobres en centenas al paso del verano. Como los ogros a los niños de los cuentos, así el cholera infantum les chupa la vida: un boa no los dejará como el verano en New York deja a los niños pobres, como roídos, como mondados, como vaciados y enjutos. Sus ojitos parecen cavernas; sus cráneos, cabezas calvas de hombres viejos; sus manos, manojos de yerbas secas. Se arrastran como los gusanos: se exhalan en quejidos. ¡Y digo que éste es un crimen público, y que el deber de remediar la miseria innecesaria es un deber del Estado! (Trópico, XXIX, 188-189.)

8Ibid., XXXV, 184.

9 Lex, I, 1072.

10Ibid, pp. 1154-1155.

11Ibid, p. 1160.

12 As far as I have been able to ascertain, this is the only essay of Martí so far translated in toto into English. Translated by Louis Gruss, it appeared in The Louisiana Historical Quarterly, XXIII (Jan., 1940), 259-264.

13 Lex, I, 1078.

14Ibid., p. 1169.

15Ibid., p. 1162.


1 In his opinion the very nature of the republic was being transformed from a democracy to an oligarchy by the corrupting power of big business, as the following paragraph attests:

. . . en todos esos hechos, únicos que hoy de veras ocupan la atención, se ve como todo un sistema está sentado en el banquillo, el sistema de los bolsistas que estafan, de los empresarios que compran la legislación que les conviene, de los representantes que se alquilan, de los capataces de electores, que sobornan a éstos, o los defienden contra la ley, o los engañan; el sistema en que la magistratura, la representación nacional, la iglesia, la prensa misma, corrompidas por la codicia, habían llegado, en veinte y cinco años de consorcio, a crear en la democracia más libre del mundo la más injusta y desvergonzada de las oligarquías. (Trópico, XXXVI, 12.)

2 Cf."El Secretario de Marina Whitney" (Lex), I, 1221-1224.

3 Trópico,XXXI, 12-13.

4 It is extremely interesting to compare Martí's reflections on this subject with those of another keen observer of American idiosyncrasy and mores, Alexis de Tocqueville. In one of many passages in which he commented upon the acquisitive obsession and the excessive love of money which he had observed in this country, Tocqueville wrote some fifty years prior to Martí:

"In America then every one finds facilities, unknown elsewhere, for making or increasing his fortune. The spirit of gain is always on the stretch, and the human mind, constantly diverted from the pleasures of imagination and the labours of the intellect, is there swayed by no impulse but the pursuit of wealth. Not only are manufacturing and commercial classes to be found in the United States, as they are in all other countries; but, what never occurred elsewhere, the whole community is simultaneously engaged in productive industry and commerce." (Democracy in America, tr. by Henry Reeves, Esq. [New York: A. S. Barnes & Co., 1863], II, 35-36.)

5Trópico, XXXI, 133.

6Ibid., XXVII, 99-100.

7 en este pueblo revuelto, suntuoso y enorme, la vida no es más que la conquista de la fortuna: ésta es la enfermedad de su grandeza. La lleva sobre el hígado; se le ha entrado por todas las entrañas: lo está trastornando, afeando y deformando todo. Los que imiten a este pueblo grandioso, cuiden de no caer en ella. Sin razonable prosperidad, la vida, para el común de las gentes, es amarga; pero es un cáncer sin los goces del espíritu. (Ibid., XXX, 77).

8 Quoted from: Vernon Louis Parrington, Main Currents in American Thought, (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Co., Inc., 1930), III, 280.

9 Trópico, XXXVII, 56.

10Ibid., p. 70.

11 Among other essays on these problems see the following: "Las asociaciones de obreros"; "El problema industrial en Los Estados Unidos"; "La revolución del trabajo"; "Las huelgas en los Estados Unidos"; "Las grandes huelgas en los Estados Unidos"; "Grandes motines obreros"; "El proceso de los siete anarquistas de Chicago"; "Un drama terrible"; "La inmigración en los Estados Unidos" in Lex, I, 1545; 1644; 1672; 1677; 1681; 1699; 1736; 1842; 2042, respectively.

12 Cf."El cisma de los Católicos en Nueva York: and "La excomunión del padre Mc Glyn," Ibid., pp. 1781 and 1819, respectively.

13 Trópico,XXXIII, 110.

14 El hombre máquina rutinaria, habilísimo en el ramo a que se consagra, cerrado por completo fuera de él a todo conocimiento, comercio y simpatía con lo humano. Ese es el resultado directo de una instrucción elemental y exclusivamente práctica. Como que no hay alma suficiente en este pueblo gigantesco: y sin esa juntura maravillosa, todo se viene en los pueblos, con gran catástrofe, a tierra. . . .

De leer, escribir y contar no se pasa en la escuela pública. Y de la escuela pública, a la faena, al espectáculo de lujo, al deseo de poseerlo, a la vanidad de ostentarlo, a las angustias crueles e innobles de rivalizar con el del vecino. (Trópico, XXXII, 68-69.)

Roberta Day Corbitt (essay date 1955)

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Last Updated on June 7, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 3075

SOURCE: "José Martí's Views on the United States," in Kentucky Foreign Language Quarterly, Vol. II, No. 4, 1955, pp. 152-59.

[In the following essay, Corbitt examines Martí's mixed feelings about the United States; despite his admiration for U.S. democracy, Corbitt argues, Martí was deeply distressed by its preoccupation with wealth and material gain.]

We of the United States have had at our disposal for more than half a century a candid interpretation of ourselves by a Latin American, but because it was not published in English we have failed to utilize it. The celebration in 1953 of the centenary of the birth of José Martí gave momentum to the study of his relationship to the United States, and called attention to his literary excellency.

The fourteen and a half years spent in the United States by Martí, the Cuban revolutionary leader, have borne fruit to our advantage and our disadvantage since the beginning of his journalistic career in this country in 1880. He came biased in favor of our political system, having, as he did, a passionate love of human liberty. His careful observation and reading, while he saw our system developing during the decade of the Eighties, with its territorial expansion, its increasing wealth, and its rapidly growing population, were productive of seventeen volumes of commentary on nearly every phase of our national life. Greatly impressed by the freedom granted to individuals to possess themselves and to enjoy the pursuit of happiness, he spoke of fifty million crowned heads, laborers who were kings, and the perfect political system. However, there was one preoccupation that overshadowed his approval—that of the inordinate love of riches which he beheld on every hand. He analyzed it from various angles, and it was the conclusion of most of his discussions.

In Martí's opinion the origin of this covetousness lay in the European immigrants, but its outcome was the uncertain element. Repeatedly he either prophesied downfall for a nation so overwhelmingly greedy for wealth or asked the question, which he left unanswered, "What can be the destiny of a nation so mad for the possession of material gain?"

Martí had come to the United States with his mind filled with ideals and open to ideas, especially to all that had to do with democracy and the dignity of man. Having been educated in the field of Spanish law, he was well able to evaluate our laws, and he had his own worthy contribution to add to his observations as he wrote them for his fellow Latin Americans.

One of our greatest problems, as Martí saw it, was that of the influence of immigration. The accuracy of his judgment has been proved with the passing of three quarters of a century. He saw two factions pitted against each other in the molding of our national character: the Puritan element of the Northeast which represented to him the foundation of our system of liberties and human rights, and the hungry underprivileged thousands who were fleeing from the hopelessness of their position in Europe and who seized with ruthless greed upon the opportunities and abundance of a new continent. Whether the mercenary newcomers would take the reins from the hands of the Puritan element could be discovered only with the passing of time.

With painstaking care Martí checked the newspapers and produced statistics about the numbers that were coming from the different countries; he also listed the contributions made or the dangers presented by each group. The most numerous were the Irish, whose only contribution was that of cheerfully performing the most degrading labor. The greatest danger lay in the accumulation of thousands of these immigrants in the large cities and the wielding of their combined vote for an unworthy type of politician. Moreover, they brought with them no crafts and increased the prison population by their idleness and drunkenness.

The Germans were another powerful factor as an element of the new population. Martí called them serious, responsible, and hard working. They were self-centered and lacked a love for humanity, but he thought they could soon be absorbed by the native element. Their only danger, which was a serious one, was that of introducing warped principles of government. Martí found them guilty of having caused the Haymarket Riot in Chicago in 1886 and of training men in the methods of destruction and the doctrines of anarchism.

A third group was made up of Italians who were only beginning to come in major figures after the middle of the decade. Martí's conclusion about them was that they were not altogether undesirable but that they should be required by law to live decently and to forego laziness!

The Chinese immigrants were granted Martí's sympathy and praise. They were thrifty, industrious, and clean; furthermore they were law-abiding, never attacking anyone and scarcely defending themselves. Their only flaw was that they did not bring wives, and, to Martí, "un pueblo sin mujeres no es simpático. . . . El hombre casado inspira. . . . La mujer es la nobleza del hombre." 1

Pondering the effect of this influx of other ideals Martí made the following analysis:

. . . se está rehaciendo, como se rehace la de la tierra, la capa nacional. El aluvión ha traído de todas partes, y ha echado sobre el substratum yankee, la tierra fértil nueva. Ni la religión puritana, ni el gobierno republicano mismo primitivo, prenden bien en el nuevo terreno: terreno exuberante, pero lleno de ortigas europeas, y de plantas glotonas. 2

Another phase of North American civilization which displeased and grieved Martí was that of popular amusements. Anything grosero was foreign to his cultured soul, and what he heard most noisily proclaimed was prize-fighting, which to him was the culmination of brutality, and which he considered our national sport. His attention was also drawn by football, in which he glimpsed a threat to education; by the senseless walking marathons of several hundred miles, which left the participants more dead than alive; by the grotesque and satiric negro minstrels; and by the excesses of Coney Island. However, he admitted the value of Coney Island as an escape from the pressure of life in New York City. It was a "pillow" on which the burning heads of fevered thousands were cooled. Of its frequenters he remarked that these tranquil people who were disturbed only by the covetousness of wealth enjoyed an absolute lack of visible sadness.

Features which amused the Cuban observer were the Wild West shows and exhibits of Indian life sponsored by Buffalo Bill on Staten Island. He mused long and commented at length on the way of life he saw at the Indian camp, on the swiftness of the Indian ponies, on the buffalo chase, and on the display of the western romanticism of which he had read.

Winter sports and entertainments greatly pleased Martí. Ice skating and sleigh riding were poetic when treated by his imaginative pen. Indoor entertainments—lectures and opera—were dear to his heart. He applauded the dignity of earning one's livelihood by lecturing and recommended it to his fellow Hispano-Americans, particularly to the scholars of Caracas whose intellectual companionship he had recently been enjoying. In opera Martí was thoroughly at home, but even opera in New York had its drawback, for he sensed no bond of emotion or sympathy uniting the audience. This lack he attributed to the scant culture of the newly rich immigrant social climbers, a criticism which he applied to the society that he saw at the great balls in New York which he attended in the capacity of newspaper reporter, relaying and interpreting his observations to La Nacíon of Buenos Aires, or to La Opinion Nacional of Caracas, or other periodicals of Mexico, Cuba, and Uruguay.

Martí's criterion of culture was lofty, and he was satisfied here with nothing short of what sprang from Boston or its environs. He cherished great respect for the cradle of North American ideals and education, as may be seen from the following:

Pero es lo cierto que por esa natural y sencilla arrogancia que da la superioridad legítima de la inteligencia, y por el mejoramiento que viene al espíritu de su roce con ideas y gentes que gustan de ellas,—distínguese de los demás habitantes de la nación, sin gran dificultad, a un bostoniano. 3

New England was famous for its colleges, its customs, and its learned men. As examples he cited Motley, Emerson, Longfellow, Ripley, Dana, and Lowell, and credited Harvard and Yale with the education of these prohombres. Nevertheless, as institutions of modern learning these two schools, together with Amherst, Princeton, Rutgers, Columbia, and others of the older seats of learning, fell short in Martí's judgment because to read Homer in Greek and Vergil in Latin was mental adornment and not essential to the needs of the day. There was one university, however, which he considered near perfect: Cornell. The fact that one could study both letters and sciences there appealed to him because:

La educación tiene un deber ineludible para con el hombre,—no cumplirlo es crimen: conformarle a su tiempo—sin desviarle de la grandiosa y final tendencia humana. Que el hombre viva en analogía con el universo, y con su época; para lo cual no le sirven el Latín y el Griego. 4

The question of what kind of education was suitable for women was one that called for much comment. Sometimes Martí favored a masculine education for women which would enable them to understand and aid their husbands; sometimes he deplored the kind of learning that would unfit women for homemakers. Among his first articles written in the United States he expressed surprise at the strength and decision of the women of this country, and repeatedly throughout his North American Scenes did he voice regret at the absence of languor and the sweet apathy of the South American women. Here, he said, he had never been tempted to fall in love; he had never found his "two beautiful eyes" as he had in every other country through which he had passed. He did not deny either the beauty or the intelligence of the North American woman; he only lamented her masculine cualities. There were a few individual women, such as Clara Barton, Louisa May Alcott, and Lydia Pinkham, whom he praised for their accomplishments, but in general he did not like the studied coldness, the practicality, and the love of money of the northern women.

Being a wanderer from the Catholic fold, Martí was exceptionally tolerant of Protestantism. Under whatever guise he found brotherly love, he exalted the agency responsible for it. Religious dogma seems not to have been an essential part of Martí's adoration because, in writing about a conference of free thinkers, he praised it as an enciclopedia hablada and then ended his discussion by saying:

Y nosotros agregamos que, besando en la frente a Cristo muerto en la cruz por la redención de todos, hagan de sus maderos instrumentos del trabajo humano. 5

He took to task any religion that offered no aid to suffering humanity. Throughout thirty-eight pages he extended his defense of Father McGlynn, a New York priest who was excommunicated for rebelling against the Catholic hierarchy in voting for the Labor Party.

Anything that was called religion interested Martí. He discussed the cults and "isms," orthodox and unorthodox, exposing fanaticism and commending liberalism. Forms and those who live by them perish, he contended, when he saw that the churches that battled for conventional rites were deserted. He taught that liberty should be cherished because it inspires religious well-being in man; he even questioned whether the Catholic doctrine could exist among free people without harming them. Liberty to him was a definitive religion; therefore he bowed to the rebels who defied the staid old cults that had not justified their existence.

To these independent thinkers belonged Henry Ward Beecher and Phillips Brooks, figures of the day that commanded his attention. Of the latter he spoke thus:

Eran muchos los que se detenían a verlo [President Cleveland] pasar; pero más eran los que iban a oír en la iglesia de la Trinidad, en la cabeza de la calle, la iglesia de la alta espira y las campanas de orquesta, el último sermón de los que predicó a los hombres de negocios, con casa llena y fama grande, el sacerdote Phillips Brooks, hombre gigantesco, que habla como si derramase las palabras sobre el corazon, con un arte que a la vez manda y suplica, y abundancia de voces que parece descargar de catapulta, y el único gesto llevarse la mano a la frente, y echarse atrás el cabello plateado, como para dar más campo y luz a las ideas fogosas. 6

. . . se sabe que, de Beecher a él [Brooks] nadie ha sacudido así las almas, ni ha puesto menos teatro aparente y tema mundano en sus sermones, ni ha hablado de cosas religiosas con más semejanza de libertad y de razón. 7

[Brooks] no habla "como sacerdote de oficio, sino como hombre hermano"—que no quiere saber de este dogma ni aquél; sino de lo esencial de la fe en Dios. . . . 8

And of Beecher he said:

Y entre otros muchos hechos dos hay, que no son para olvidarlos. Es el uno que Beecher, quien a pesar de su moderado atrevimiento, será juzgado con justicia, no sólo como el mejor orador sagrado, sino como uno de los gloriosos atrevidos de este país,—ha comenzado una serie de sermones en que pretende, del brazo de la teología y ciencias que la ayudan, conformar el espíritu religioso al espíritu científico: ¡como si, a manera de perfume, no se escapara de la ciencia, la religiosidad! ¡Mientras más hondo, más alto! 9

Martí's prime interest in the United States was the study of our democracy." La elaboración de esta República" was what he wanted to picture in "hechos menores," for "cada día es un poema" and "cada número del Herald es, a su modo, un poema." Marti drew largely from the New York Herald as his authority on questions of the day. The 1881 New York state elections were the first that he witnessed and he was soon aware of the necessity of reform within both parties. In writing of these elections he took the occasion to explain to his readers in South America the background of each party, the machinery, the boss system, examples of corruption, and all that would make clear what was desirable and what was unworthy in our type of government. Throughout the decade, as the system developed under his observation, he analyzed, interpreted, and discussed with excellent understanding the details of a democratic form of government, recommending to the leaders of the new republics to the South books to be studied and errors to be avoided.

In a light vein Martí described a political convention:

Y ¡cuán pintoresca es una población en día de convención! Rebosan los hoteles; resuenan alegres bandas; despléganse banderas: óyense de lejos los vítores y silbos de las juntas tumultuosas; grandes grupos bulliciosos llenan las aceras, discuten por las calles, detiénense ante las puertas. Vense caras robustas de hombres del campo; gallardos caballeros, políticos de ciudad; escúchanse fanfarronadas, amenazas, denuestos, risas, chistes; llénanse las arcas de los mostradores de bebidas. Y luego de electa la mesa de la Convención, de pronunciado por el Presidente el discurso de orden, que viene a ser un programa del partido; de leída la plataforma, en que las esperanzas, propósitos y creencias del partido se condensan en un número breve de resoluciones; luego de sustentados los candidatos a los diversos empleos por sus respectivos partidarios, y de electos en votación, y de anunciada la lista de candidatos definitivos,—suenan aires marciales, humean en las estaciones de ferrocarril trenes extraordinarios, vacíanse los hoteles, y vuélvense los combatientes a toda prisa a sus lares desiertos, cargados los unos con los laureles del triunfo, y los otros con sus esperanzas muertas, a trabajar en junto por la victoria de los candidatos definitivamente señalados por la Convención. Tal señalamiento es sagrado. El enemigo tiene que trabajar por el enemigo. Al interés del hombre, servido por la comunidad en la satisfacción de otros intereses. . . . Esta disciplina explica esas compactas masas, esos súbitos y felices acuerdos, ese sofocamiento rápido de rencores que parecían terribles e insaciables, esas admirables victorias del sufragio en los grandes combates de este pueblo. 10

In addition to the foregoing phases of our national life, the customs of Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's Day, and Easter, unusual happenings in the country, such as the Charleston earthquake, the Johnstown flood, the building of Brooklyn Bridge, the dedication of the Statute of Liberty, and a host of other topics are given to us through the eyes of José Martí in the North American Scenes which enable us to look at ourselves as from another planet. Many savory morsels are to be found there that do not appear in our own histories, and the name of Martí is only now beginning to become known in the United States.

This body of North American costumbrismo not only offered to the South American reader lectura amena but also fashioned his thinking about the "colossus" of the North—a word used repeatedly by Martí. In his political writings he set Mexico and the Central American republics on their guard against the United States. He advised parents that there was nothing for their sons to study in North America that could not be learned as well under their own ombú tree; on the other hand there were many undesirable customs which might be acquired in the United States. His accusations of materialism and imperialism which have echoed and reëchoed through the Andes have become a chorus in crescendo. Any re-evaluation of the United States for Latin America would have to be initiated in this country, and an investigation of Martí's judgment of us would be a logical beginning.


1 José Martí, Obras Completas, edited by Gonzalo de Quesada y Miranda. 74 vols., Havana: Editorial Trópico, 1936—1949, XXXI, 191.

2Ibid., XXX, 66.

3Ibid., XXIII, 32.

4Ibid., p. 37.

5Ibid., XXIX, 201.

6Ibid., XXXIX, 43.

7Ibid., p. 47.

8Ibid., p. 49.

9Ibid., XXXI, 116.

10Ibid., XXVII, 74-75.

Richard Butler Gray (essay date 1962)

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Last Updated on June 8, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 9948

SOURCE: "Moral and Social Ideas," in José Martí, Cuban Patriot, University of Florida Press, 1962, pp. 35-58.

[In 1962 Gray's book constituted the first significant biography of Martí written in English. In the chapter reprinted below, Gray presents his broad view of Martí and addresses the debate over Martí's status as a philosopher and moralist.]

The ideas of José Martí are disorganized and contradictory. The task of running down and bringing order to this mass of data is beyond the scope of this study.1 At most, perhaps, one is limited to a judicious selection of Martian thoughts which can be considered most representative of Martí, with the uneasy reservation that in such an enormous and undigested amount of data better selections might have been chosen to point up similar conclusions, or worse still, to arrive at opposite ones. There is no denying that the prolixity of Marti" s writings has resulted in his becoming "all things to all men." The most that one can do is to recognize that fact and then proceed to discover in what ideas Martí seems to have been most consistent. Clearly his ideas on every subject can not be considered. An attempt will be made in this chapter to touch upon the most important ones, and to emphasize those areas of his thought which may be shown later to have had a bearing on his impact upon the Cuban people. These ideas will in turn furnish points of departure for discussion in later chapters. An attempt will be made to follow Martí's ideal of methodology in this respect: "Isolated facts should not be cited—the easy way of a light and useless erudition—rather, facts in order, of a solid whole, knit together and certain." 2

Martí wrote that one's best ideas did not issue from meditation, but from improvisation. He believed that ideas broke out in conversation in an unexpected and spontaneous fashion, even involuntarily. Some of these ideas he elaborated upon, arranged, contrived, and polished, but he admitted that these were poorer than the ideas that burst forth fully finished. He wrote, "Others go to bed with their mistresses; I with my ideas." 3

Martí was aware that the importance and effectiveness of ideas are related to the manner in which they are received. He said:

Each thought has its mold; but, just as the lithographer's plate is worn when it is used to print numerous examples, and the figure printed loses line and ink, so does the thought which falls upon other thoughts in a used mold lose its force to influence and shine. And what began as the lion's roar ends up a little like a dog's bark. 4

Because most of Martí's writings appear without sources given for the ideas contained therein, it is difficult to determine what thoughts occurred to him spontaneously. He took a rather cavalier attitude toward citing references when he jotted down in his notes in 1894:

You will pardon me for not citing books, not because I do not read them . . . but because the book which most interests me is the book of life, which is also the hardest to read, and the one which one is to consult most in all that which refers to politics. 5

For the sake of convenience Martí's thought may be arranged in the general fields of moral philosophy, sociology, politics, and economics, although, to repeat, this is attributing an organization to it that does not exist. Perhaps a truer picture might be obtained if his ideas were merely strung along alphabetically, as they do appear in one anthology. 6

Moral Philosophy

Martí was an inveterate moralizer about man, his mind, character, love, and friendship; the good life, and death.

One of his major literary and philosophical projects, as revealed in a letter to his friend Miguel Viondi, was to write a three-volume work called El concepto de la vida (The Concept of Life), although he admitted that he would never have time to do it. Volume I was to be on the universe up to the present, the world as it was and why it had come to be that way. Volume II was to be an expression in verse of the eternal human soul, from the Greeks up to the present. Volume III was to be a study of the essence and soul of history, with a prognostication of the future world and final destiny of man's spirit. In this work he hoped to distinguish the artificial life from the natural one. He wrote:

The world today is a vast dwelling place of people wearing masks. One comes to earth like so much wax and chance places us in preformed molds. Existing conventions deform our true existence, and our real life comes to be like a quiet current running beneath our apparent existence, at times not even felt by the one in whom it is doing its silent work.

One of his plans in this project was to write in an attempt to promote human liberty. Political liberty, he felt, would never be assured so long as spiritual liberty was not secure, and it was urgent to free men from tyranny and convention. 7


Martí's concept of man varied. In 1877 he wrote, "I believe above all . . . in the absolute good of man. I work to deserve it." Elsewhere, however, he was less optimistic: "Each man is a sleeping beast. It is necessary to place reins on the beast. And man is an admirable beast, he is able to govern himself." Also, "Men, seen from above, or seen from any point of view, make one feel sad." Martí wrote in a similar passage on Mark Twain, "He must have, and I believe that he does have, the incurable melancholy of all those who know men profoundly." 8

Human virtues.—Martí was in favor of all the human virtues: truth, it is better "to keep silent than not to speak the truth"; honor, "Honor must always be a religion in our souls"; honesty, "Honest men are my circle, and the rest are knaves"; decorum, "Dignity is like a sponge, it is pressed, but it always retains its power of resilience"; virtue, "The heart becomes bitter when it does not recognize virtue in time"; fraternity, "Every man is to feel on his cheek the blow received on the cheek of any other man"; and compassion, "And if I kill a fly, in anguish I begin to argue with my conscience whether I had the right to kill it." 9

Martí once summed up his ideal of the virtuous man in a creed that reads:

To live in these times and to be pure, to be eloquent, brave and beautiful, and not to have been bitten, tortured and crushed by passions, to reach the maturity of mind which is necessary, and to keep one's heart in healthful vigor; to triumph over hunger, over one's own vanity, and the hatred which discord engenders; and to triumph without hiding one's conscience nor trafficking at the expense of dignity; to brace, in short, with the bitter sea, . . . and to drink foul air and water, and remain healthy—these are the great things in life. 10

Other human qualities occupied his pen from time to time: piety, "Piety is the stamp of chosen souls"; charity, "It is a marvelous law of Nature that only the one who gives himself becomes whole, and does not begin to possess life until he empties his own, without objection and reflection, for the good of others." He commented at the same time, however, in a mordant passage, that whoever gave himself to men would be devoured by them. 11

INTELLIGENCE: Martí believed that human intelligence was the only definitive power on earth. He affirmed, "Intelligence produces goodness, justice, and beauty, and like a wing, it raises the spirit; like a crown, it makes a monarch of the one who displays it." 12

HAPPINESS: Martí was certain that the only way to be happy was to be good. He wrote, "Being good is pleasing, and makes one strong and happy." An important ingredient in doing good was in being generous. He said, "Happiness does exist on earth; and it is conquered with the prudent exercise of reason, knowledge of harmony in the universe, and the constant practice of generosity." Martí even found possibilities for the exercise of virtue in the absence of generosity and good, "Great crimes are useful because they demonstrate to what extent nobility may be necessary to pardon them." 13

LOVE: TO Martí only one key opened the door to happiness—love. He defined it as follows:

Love is two spirits knowing each other, caressing, blending, helping each other to arise from the earth in a single being. It is born with the pleasure of looking at each other, it is fed with the necessity of seeing each other, it is concluded with the impossibility of separation! 14

In 1881 he saw the world equally divided between love and hate. He wrote: "Life on earth is a hand-to-hand mortal combat, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, between the law of love and the law of hate." By 1893, however, he wrote, "The only truth in this life, and the only force, is love. In it lies salvation, and in it lies power. Patriotism is no more than love. Friendship is no more than love." 15

FRIENDSHIP: One of the strong threads running through Martí's life was his deep capacity for friendship and his ability to express it in deeds and in writing. His most famous poem, known as "La Rosa Blanca" ("The White Rose"), is concerned with the generous, or "turn the other cheek" attitude in friendship. It reads:

I cultivate a white rose,
In July as in January,
For the sincere friend
Who gives me his open hand.

And for the cruel one who tears out
The heart that gives me life,
I cultivate neither thistle nor weed,
I cultivate a white rose.


In 1889 he wrote that five just men would have been enough to have saved Gomorrah; but that to be immortal being remembered by a sincere friend was sufficient. In 1894 he wrote, "Love has not, to my recollection, given me any supreme moment; friendship has." In the same year he said that a great proof of the excellence of the Greeks was the value that they gave to friendship.17 He once summed up his feelings on the subject of friendship when he wrote in a friend's album, "If they ask me what word is most beautiful, I will say that it is 'country'; and if they ask me for another, almost as beautiful as 'country,' I will say 'friendship'." 18

To Mercado, one of his most intimate friends, he wrote:

You entered my soul in my hour of greatest grief, and you divined it without obliging me to the imprudence of showing it to you, and since that time you have a royal throne there. 19

GRIEF: If there is any one characteristic that marks Martí's concept of life, it is that life is one great bowl of sorrow mitigated only by grief. In Adúltera he wrote, "If they should ask me what it is to live, I would say, 'Grief, grief is life.'" In fact, "Man needs to suffer. When he does not have real griefs he creates them. Griefs purify and prepare him." In his notes he jotted down, "Griefs, like benevolent angels, draw the curtains of my life"; and, "I am like those plains in Siberia which give abundant fruit in the midst of cold. From grief, flowers." In another notebook he wrote that for suffering, just like thinking, he needed to be alone. In a letter to Mercado he wrote in 1889, "Women are never more beautiful than when they suffer."20 Elsewhere, "There is only one pleasure—grief." In 1894 he wrote again in his notes, "I rejoice in sorrow. There is deep joy in sorrow—in our own sorrow." 21

This predilection for the expression of suffering, which is so evident in Martí, has been traced by Medardo Vitier, a Cuban professor of philosophy, to the influence of Seneca's writings in Spanish letters in general and specifically in Martí.22 In addition, Félix Lizaso has written, "Stoicism offered Martí the best resonance for his thought . . . especially in his reading of Seneca." 23Although these references are probably well based, Martí was undoubtedly influenced just as much if not more in his writings by having all the characteristics of a "born sufferer." To hazard an irreverent statement, Martí could have taught Seneca a few points about the art of suffering.


It is at this point, on a note of grief, so to speak, that one may explore the areas of Martí's more personal philosophy, his concept of himself. In a passage in 1881, showing signs of the influence of Walt Whitman, he wrote:

I was born of myself, and from my own eyes the world itself opened up. Now, when man is born, surrounding his cradle, with strong bonds to encircle him, are all the philosophies, the religions, the political systems. And they tie him up . . . and man is now, for all of his life on earth, a bridled horse, and I am a horse without a saddle. From no one do I receive a law nor do I intend to impose one on anybody. I save myself from men, and I save them from me. . . . But I suffer. One does not live except in the community. 24

Martyrdom.—Henry David Thoreau, the American philosopher, whom Martí admired, once wrote that the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. While Martí was inclined to write, "Grief is life," it seems clear that he was thinking less about the lot of man in general than he was about himself. In fact, whether consciously or not, Martí sought martyrdom at a very early age, as is evidenced by his exaltation of the glories of sacrifice for one's country in "Abdala," and his eagerness to take all the blame for the letter which resulted in his being sentenced to six years in prison. From that time until his death his writings are replete with references to his eventual martyrdom. For instance, in a passage from his notes he philosophized upon the relationship of the body and the soul, concluding that what he called the "body" was a collection of ideas, prime among them being passion for duty and for a "voluntary martyrdom." When these duties were fulfilled the result would be a "soul that would rise to heaven." 25

In 1878 Martí wrote to Mercado from Guatemala:

In Spain I was keeping myself for a martyrdom; in Mexico I was fulfilling it; here, since I am working for my happiness, I have no right to it. 26

The very word "martyrdom" is a stock item in the language of Martí, as can be seen in another letter to Mercado in the same year, in which he wrote, "It is a terrible martyrdom this matter of seeing a great work necessary, to feel oneself with the force to carry it through, and not being allowed to do it." 27

Martí elaborated his ideas of martyrdom to the point where he identified himself with the stigmata of Christ, saying, "I bear on my left side a rose of fire, which burns me, but I live and work with it, in the hopes that some heroic, or at least difficult, labor will redeem me." Once he wrote to Mercado that a letter he had just received from him had found him tormented and on "the cross in the hour of martyrdom for good Christians." This point was also developed in Amistad funesta, in which Martí described the hero of the novel, Juan Jerez (with whom Martí has been closely identified by many writers), as follows: "There was in his character a strange and violent necessity for martyrdom." 28

Although it is probably true that the use of the word "martyrdom" in Spanish is often lightly invoked, along with many other expressions of a religious origin, there can be no doubt that Martí's attitude was of a much more serious nature. The average Latin American, for example, does not feel that "an apostleship is a daily and constant duty." 29

Duty.—This concept of duty as an apostleship was another strong force in Martí's life. Félix Lizaso, whose major work on Martí is called Martí, místico del deber (Martí, Mystic of Duty), has written in another study, "It was his idea of duty, and not a romantic impulse, which gave him [Martí] his status of apostle."30 This opinion was affirmed five years later by Jorge Mañach.31 Andrés Iduarte finds that Martí's formula in life is sacrifice and, "above all, duty."32 While still in his twenties Marti wrote that he was not a hardhearted revolutionary merely dedicating his life to troublemaking. Nevertheless when it became necessary to engage in rebellion it did not matter to him if the fulfillment of his duty made him unpopular; he would do it. In 1881 he wrote, "I love my duty more than my son." His notes of the same year read in part:

From human institutions, which I find already formed and among which I live, I do not recognize, nor remember, nor require other duties than my own. I do not even consider that the duties of others toward myself exist. 33

Martí's preoccupation with suffering—one of the main threads running through his life—often led him to give it an undue amount of attention in his writings. Occasionally, however, he would make an effort to sublimate personal feelings for the greater cause. Consider the following passage from his notes:

One should not lose time in suffering: one should use it in fulfilling our duty. Thus, I feel that I am dying, and I lift my head, I tremble from a horrible cold, and I continue forward—I will die a whole man. 34

Although Marti's suffering seems to have left him without any sense of humor, some amusement can be gleaned from the following passage of his worry about age creeping up to hinder him in his work. He complained:

I have something important to tell you. . . . It is that I am becoming bald, and I am afraid of leaving this life without having had an opportunity to fulfill my duty. It is not reasonable that one who has strength to carry a hundred pounds on his back should be employed in drawing water from an empty well with a bucket without a bottom. That is what I have been thinking about in the midst of these trifling business tasks. 35

For Martí the act of doing was the only effective way of censuring those who would not work. He also wrote:

The person who is contented with his own well-being, and does not care for the misery which is destroying the rest, is neither a man by rights, nor will he be able to prevent infamy and public misery from reaching himself. 36

He once wrote that he served no other master except duty, and that with this he would always be powerful enough. In 1895 he said, "Wherever may be my greatest duty, inside or out, there I will be." 37

Towards the end of his life Martí wrote that the good individual feels an inexpressible bitterness about his deeds when he sees that men are dazzled by pomp, that the truth does not interest them, that strong virtue bothers and displeases them, that they follow the one who praises them for their vices, and abandon those who would do them the most good. He wrote:

All of that is true, but from these pains a good man grows, he gains greater strength while those most needful of him let him remain in solitude.

According to Martí, the lesson to be gained from this is that one must persevere in the service of mankind in spite of an aching heart. 38

Death.—For a person who had set such a monumental task for himself in life, Martí was preoccupied to an unusual extent with death. He wrote frequently about it, saying that as night is the recompense for day, death is the recompense for life. In a passage which is representative of his attitude he exclaimed:

Death! Generous death! Death, my friend! Sublime bosom where all the sublime kingdoms are wrought; fear of the weak; pleasure of the brave; satisfaction of my desires; dark passage to the remaining episodes of existence; immense mother at whose feet we stretch out to gain new strength for the unknown way where heaven is wider, limitless horizons, where unworthy feet are dust, truth at last, wings; tempting mystery, . . . harbinger of liberty. 39

At times, however, he resisted death and wrote, "Death is not true," or, "It is a crime not to oppose all possible obstacles to death." His notes in 1881 read:

Death is no rest. There is no rest until the entire job is completed, and the world purified, and the canvas in its frame. I do not want to rest; because there is pleasure in suffering well, and what is to be shall be. . . . I am afraid of dying before having suffered enough. 40

Again in his notes, probably sometime during 1894, he wrote down the Spanish word postrimerías (theological term for the last stage of life), adding, "I like this word in an extraordinary way. I love it like a person: it has produced a friend for me." 41

Martí frequently wrote poems on the subject of death.A well-known one, composed in 1894, reads:

I wish to leave the world
By its natural door;

In my tomb of green leaves
They are to carry me to die.

Do not put me in the dark
To die like a traitor;

I am good, and like a good being
I will die with my face to the sun.


Thus it can be seen that Martí was mentally preparing himself for death and martyrdom, which finally caught up with him at Dos Ríos. The apotheosis of Martí and the cult to him which has developed will be discussed in a later chapter. It should be kept in mind that the conditioning process for this phenomenon was started in Martí's own writings. This opinion, however, is not shared by Andrés Iduarte, who writes, "He is mistaken—some have already made the mistake—who believes that Martí was a seeker after glory. He did not want power while alive nor glory after death."43 The evidence does not seem to support this point of view.


In addition to Martí's conviction of his approaching martyrdom, his philosophy of religion was a curious compound of oriental mysticism, pantheism, and anti-Roman Catholicism. While it may be difficult to determine with certainty just what Martí's religion was, it does appear that he was basically not irreligious. In fact, one Cuban writer, Raquel Catalá, claims that Martí was "supremely religious."44 Whether or not this statement is quite accurate, it seems clear that when Martí was writing about the great human virtues of love, honoring father and mother, charity, truth, honor, generosity, and piety, he was doing so with a religious base. He said:

Morality is the basis of a good religion. Religion is the form of natural belief in God and the natural tendency to investigate Him and reverence Him. Being religious is deeply engrained in human beings.

Another of his definitions of religion reads:

There is in man a vague and intimate knowledge, constant and imposing, of a Great Creative Being. This knowledge is religious sentiment, and its form, expression, the manner with which each group of men conceive this God and worship Him, is what is called religion. 45

Martí believed that God existed in the idea of good, which watched over the birth of every being and left in the soul that was incarnate "a pure tear." 46

Transmigration of souls.—Miguel Jorrín, among other Cuban writers, has pointed out that Martí's religious philosophy was very much influenced throughout his life by the "ideas of India."47 An example of Martí's inclination toward a philosophy of transmigration of souls is his poem "Yugo y Estrella" ("Yoke and Star"). Martí wrote in part:

When I was born, without sun, my mother said:
Flower of my breast, generous Homagno,
Substance and reflex of Creation and me,
Fish which becomes bird, horse, then man,
Look at these two insignias of life
Which I give you: look and choose.

This sentiment also appeared in El presidio politico en Cuba. One part reads:

And when I suffer, and the pleasure of mitigating the suffering of others does not lessen my own, it seems to me that in previous worlds I must have committed a grave misdeed which, in my unknown wanderings through space, it has become my lot to atone for here. 49

Félix Lizaso does not believe, however, that Hindu philosophy had a direct influence on Martí. He feels that Indian thought came to Martí through the writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson, and that at all events it was "not a guide-rule but only a resonance" in his thought. 50

Perhaps Martí's greater preoccupation was in his cer-tainty of another existence after death. He wrote, "Idealism is not a vague desire for death, but the conviction of an afterlife, which one is to merit with the calm practice of virtue in this life." He believed that human life would be a barbarous and repugnant invention if it were limited to existence on earth. He wrote, "It is a lie that memory ends with death, because that would be such a profound grief that it would be inconceivable in one's life." 51

Martí found evidence all around him of a future life: the miracle of the brain, and even electricity, which announced "the permanent beatific light" which the spirit would enjoy in better worlds. He saw in the imperfection of the human tongue to express precisely the judgments, affections, and designs of man a perfect and absolute proof of the necessity of a future existence. He found that suffering was an augury of things to come; and he saw postlife in the magic words of music. 52

God and Nature.—Many references to a philosophy of pantheism exist in Martí's writings, which, it is alleged, show the influence of a German philosopher of the early nineteenth century, Karl Christian Krause. Krause was popular in Spain during the second half of the nineteenth century, and Martí came into contact with his philosophy while a student there.53 For Krause, God, or Conscience, was not a personality but an essence containing the Universe within itself. He called his philosophy panentheism, a variation of pantheism, asserting that God contained the Universe without being exhausted in it. 54

A Cuban writer, José A. Béguez César, although admitting that Martí was familiar with the doctrine of Krause, insists that that does not by any means indicate his adherence to it, nor even his sympathy for it. In fact, he comes to the conclusion that, in view of Martí's "frank and simple confession that his spiritualism was learned in the materialist books of Luis Buchner, it is sufficient proof to deny that he was a follower of Krause inasmuch as the two doctrines are irreconcilable in form and base." This writer believes that Martí's manner of work is identical to that of the German philosopher Leibnitz. 55

Whether Martí was a follower of Leibnitz or Krause is not a matter for extended consideration here. The fact remains that Martí's religious philosophy was often Nature-oriented. Félix Lizaso finds that "Nature is his great center of spiritual resonance, only that which conforms to the natural life can satisfy him."56 Martí's concept of Nature is to be seen in the following excerpt from his notes:

Apply without fear to each act of life the general laws of Nature: in medicine, in the development of peoples, in the creation of character, in the medicine of the soul. The laws of a locomotive are the same as those of the human body. The laws of the tides are those of one's thoughts. And the laws that govern the existence of a people are the same as those which rule the life of a flower.

Martí then asked where this admired wisdom of field and sea came from. The answer he gave was that it was an instinctive wisdom that at times impelled people, and at times detained them. 57

The foregoing quotation from Martí's notes can be traced to the influence of Ralph Waldo Emerson. At the death of Emerson, Martí with consummate skill and appreciation wrote an obituary that undoubtedly stands as one of the most sensitive evaluations of this American philosopher and poet in any language. In the essay Martí's discussion of Emerson's philosophy of transcendentalism is taken by many writers to represent Martí's own beliefs.58 Martí wrote that a moral character existed in all the elements of Nature that quickened the character of man. He commented:

Nature inspires, cures, consoles, fortifies, and prepares man for virtue. And man does not find himself complete, nor is revealed to himself, nor sees the invisible, except in his intimate relation with Nature. 59

Miguel Jorrín, although accepting Martí's admiration for Emerson, believes that Martí already had his own philosophy formed before coming into contact with the New England Sage. Also, Jorrín writes, "I do not find in him that identification of man with Nature . . . since he always places man above Nature."60 The passage quoted from Martí's essay on Emerson, however, would seem to indicate the contrary. In it Nature is certainly the performer, and man the object, with a seemingly close identification between the two.

At any rate, Martí unquestionably and deeply admired Emerson. On one occasion he asked, "Why can not the whole world be like Emerson, who wrote in one place, 'The world is mind precipitated'?" 61

Félix Lizaso is of the opinion, "If Martí had written in English, and had not been Hispanic-American, it is possible that the North would consider him as the last of the transcendentalists." 62

The Roman Catholic Church.—In his letters, newspaper articles, and novel, Martí evidenced a hostility to the Roman Catholic Church that is unmistakable. He was convinced that no people could be happy without the separation of Church and State.63 He was opposed to priests entering homes with the "unquestionable and infallible" teachings of Christ to use influence in political matters. He thought that it was a perversion of religion and would even result in the corruption of souls. 64

There are instances in Martí's reporting on European affairs that show anti-Roman Catholic sentiment in his discussion of the Church in Italy and in Spain. As an example in Spain, he wrote that he had seen the members of a Roman Catholic youth organization in Madrid remain seated when the orator mentioned God or Jesus Christ, but stand up when the Pope was men-tioned. 65

Other examples of Martí's anti-Roman Catholic feeling may be cited. One is a short tract, "Hombre del campo" ("The Countryman"), which is an attack against an organized church, presumably the Roman Catholic. Martí addressed himself to the average farmer, advising him to stop going to the priest and to cease paying for services, such as baptism, which he could perform just as well for himself. Martí cautioned, "The first duty of a man is to think for himself. For that reason I do not want you to respect the priest, because he will not let you think." 66

Elsewhere Martí continued his attack, writing that Christianity had died under Roman Catholicism, and that in order to love Christ it was necessary to wrench Him from the heavy hands of the priests.67 He once referred to them as the merchants of divinity. 68

The cause célèbre, however, in Martí's writings on the Roman Catholic Church as an institution in society is found in his North American Scenes for 1887, where he defended a priest by the name of Father Edward McGlynn. The clergyman had been suspended by Rome for having publicly defended Henry George, the famous but controversial author of Progress and Poverty. Martí wrote:

The parish priest, it is true, owes obedience to his Archbishop in ecclesiastical matters; but in political opinions, in matters of simple economy and social reform, in affairs that do not pertain to the Church, why is the priest to owe absolute obedience to his Archbishop? 69

Martí wrote in detail of the meetings of Father McGlynn's parishioners with Henry George to support the erring priest, and on the position of the Roman Catholic Church in the United States, without seeming to realize the anomalous position in which his approval of a priest in politics placed him.70 The controversy lasted into the summer of 1887 and furnished Martí with good copy. 71

Agnosticism.—Tolerance, however, was sometimes stressed in Martí's attitude toward all organized religion in society. He once wrote, "Everybody has the right to his own conscience. Tyrant is the Catholic who imposes himself on a Hindu, and the Methodist who sneers at a Catholic."72 Marti even pushed his tolerance to the point of cheering on the atheism of Robert G. Ingersoll in New York in September, 1883, along with favorable comments on a meeting of freethinkers. 73

At times Martí himself found it difficult to reach God, saying, "One would believe that the Creator of man is a vain creature—he places so many obstacles in the way of those who try to approach him." Also, he saw that men invented deities in their own likenesses, and that each people imagined a different heaven, with divinities who lived and thought the same as the people who created them. He wrote:

The sky was always a copy of mankind, and populated with serene images, joyful or vengeful, according to whether the nations creating them lived in peace . . . or in slavery and torment: every jolt in the history of a people altered its Olympus.

In his notes he once projected writing a "good and transcendental" work on Christian mythology. 74

Opinion on the bases of Martí's religion varies widely. Raquel Catalá "the spiritualism of Martí is perfectly thought out."75 To Emilio Roig de Leuchsenring he is "heterodoxical, a freethinker, laic, antitheocratic, and anticlerical."76 Miguel Jorrín, to repeat, does not find Martí's "identification of man with Nature," while to Félix Lizaso "Nature is his great center of spiritual resonance." Where does the answer lie? Probably somewhere in between these extremes.

Social Philosophy

Martí projected his moral philosophy into the major portion of his writings on social institutions and relationships. His interest was not particularly as a social scientist, but as a writer in aphoristic style about the home, husband and wife relationships, divorce, adultery, parental obligations to children, education, and race relationships.


On marriage he declaimed, "The only pillow on which one may rest from the pain and ugliness which one sees is in the home, where modesty has placed its crown of honor and where abnegation and sincerity are smiled upon." He recognized the importance of pleasant home surroundings when he wrote that every clean and ventilated house was a school. Elsewhere, however, he wrote that school and home were the two formidable jails of man, and that it was necessary, while leaving the roof on to shelter their occupants, to open the doors to let fresh air come in. 77

In spite of a generally favorable attitude toward the institution of marriage, Martí often commented on the lack of understanding between husbands and wives, writing, "If there were a lens which would permit women to see just how thoughts pass through men's brains, and what is in their hearts, they would love them much less." In a tone distinguished by a certain air of self-righteousness, Martí asked:

What is the knowing husband to do except to look away with horrified and grief-stricken eyes from that one who does not understand his language, nor care about his anxieties, nor can reward his noble qualities, nor sense his griefs, nor reach with her eyes where he is looking? 78

He wrote that in one day a man could stop loving the woman whom he worshipped when a definite and unexpected act revealed to him that in her soul there did not exist that sweetness and superiority with which his fancy had first invested it. In the early 1880's, when he was still deeply upset over his incompatibility with his wife, he wrote, "The question in life is reduced to a simple statement—either to seek victims or be one."79 There was no question in Martí's mind that he was being victimized.

Nothing was lower in his estimation than a woman who did not measure up to expectations. He wrote, "A woman without tenderness is a glass of flesh full of poison." Martí was fond of this rather gruesome simile. He sighed:

Ah, in those markets where generous youths, searching for bluebirds of happiness, are accustomed to link their lives to pretty glasses of flesh, in the first flush of life, the astute fox, the venomous snake, the cold and impassive cat, reveal themselves. 80

Martí was not ill-equipped to paint an unattractive picture of womankind when he was in the mood.

And then again, at times, Martí's lyricism about women knew no bounds, as when he compared a good woman to a perpetual rainbow, and asserted that the only sound force in life was the love of a woman. 81

Martí's unfortunate relationship with his wife did not blind him, however, to seeing a more productive role for women in society. He wrote that by lifting up the mind of woman with solid studies she would live on a par with man as a companion and not as a plaything. He thought that education would make women more pure. He asserted that it was not true, as teachers and observers said, that it was a proven fact that the feminine mind was weak in understanding matters of art, law, and science. In a passage with purple overtones he wrote:

Oh, the day in which women will not be frivolous! How happy that will be for mankind! How, instead of a mere plate of fragrant meat, they will become a spiritual urn, to which men will always have their anxious lips pressed. 82

Martí was interested in the subject of adultery. As has already been seen, he wrote a play on this theme when he was only twenty-one years old. In one of the passages a character is made to exclaim, "A woman stained by desire is flesh, she is dust, she is mud, she is vile!" And, "Stupid frivolities cheer on the woman who deceives her husband." Elsewhere in the play, in lines full of smugness, Martí wrote, "When man falls, being strong, he redeems himself. When woman falls, being weak, the fall insults her and cheapens her." 83

In a more objective vein he wrote later that it was necessary to study the source of the ulcer of adultery. He found that society did not look upon it as a moral crime, but rather a right considered as an absolute necessity in women, and a required social "baptism" in men. He wrote that exchanging wives was becoming as frequent as lending books, and that even among persons with superior minds confusion on this point had reached a frightening stage. He rejected the offer of the Roman Catholic Church of religion as a remedy on the grounds that in the periods of greatest strength of the Church adultery was widely practiced. Martí's explanation was that ideals were lacking, as well as knowledge of one's self, that belief in a future existence was needed, as well as spiritual development. 84

Martí's concept of parenthood was as follows, "As necessary to people as the one who pushes is the one who restrains, and as necessary to the child is the father of the house, always active, in contrast to the mother, always timid." He thought that parents should be the friends and not the implacable censors of their children. As for one's mother. "Whether she is near or far away, she is the sustaining force in our lives. . . . The earth, when she dies, opens beneath our feet." 85

Martí spoke kindly of old people. He wrote, "Old people are like an ornament, and the best fountain of force in life. What an example, a serene old man! . . . How good it is to have reached that age smiling." 86

Martí loved children and was very much interested in them, as his magazine La Edad de Oro and his poems to his son, José, in Ismaelillo, indicate. On one occasion Martí wrote:

For our children, who make us ambitious and delirious, and make our hearts giddy as if with wine, and give us the strength of the conquistadores, for them, oh, for them the whole world seems little enough. 87

Martí once wrote that when he wrapped up in newspa-per the little straw hat and shoes that his son had used, he looked to see whether the paper contained stories of man's ignoble passions, or whether it defended instances of justice. Then he would enclose his son's possessions only in the latter. He explained: "I believe in these contacts." 88


A profession that Martí esteemed very highly was that of the educator, and as frequently as he is called "Apostle," is he also called "Maestro," a term difficult to translate into English. He stated his ideal of education as follows:

To educate is to deposit in each man all the human work which has preceded him: it is to make each man the abstract of the living world up until the day of his death: it is to put him at the level of his time, so that he may float upon it . . . that is preparing man for life. 89

Marti believed that one of the best ways to accomplish this was to substitute scientific study for scholasticism, so prevalent in Latin American schools. He wrote that a radical revolution in education was necessary if the Latin Americans did not want to see themselves "forever atrophied and deformed like the monster of Horace, with a huge head and heart, but dragging weak feet, and with arms of skin and bones." He proposed that physics be taught instead of theology, that mechanics should replace rhetoric, and instead of the precepts of logic he would offer the practical arts. Courses of public teaching were to be prepared and classified in such a way that from the primary to the final grades they would develop so that man would be allowed to make a practical application of his knowledge to Nature. Once left on his own the youth would be able to apply his learning to a known world instead of being loaded down with "useless Greek and Latin letters." This seems a strange request for an avowed humanist. It is interesting to note that Martí used an example from the classics to emphasize his point. He said:

Education is to go where life goes. . . . Education must give the means of resolving the problems that life presents. The great human problems are: self-preservation and the attainment of the means of making life pleasing and peaceful. 90

Martí's opposition to scholasticism was also apparent in his hostility toward religious instruction in the schools. He wrote:

No one has the right to teach either the Catholic or anti-Catholic religion in schools; honor should be the greatest virtue in religion, and as long as the schools promote it they will be religious enough. 91

Martí felt that another grave error was being commit-ted in education in Latin America. Among populations that lived almost completely on agricultural products, men were being educated exclusively for urban life rather than for living in the country. The result was that with the overpopulated cities existing only at the expense of the country and trafficking in its products, the current system of education was creating a great army of unemployed. He advised, "Sow chemistry and agriculture and you will reap grandeur and riches." 92

Martí was particularly interested in teaching the stu-dent appreciation of Nature, and wrote that behind every school there should be an area where each student could plant a tree. He said, "We need elementary education to be purely scientific: instead of the history of Joshua, let them teach the formation of the land." Martí placed his greatest emphasis on education in agriculture. He wrote:

Teaching in agriculture is the most urgent of all, but not in technical schools, rather in experimental stations, where the parts of the plow will not be described except where the student may see it in operation; and where the composition of the fields will not be explained in formulas on the blackboard, but rather in the layers of the earth itself.

As an immediate solution for the lack of education in the country, Martí urged the establishment of traveling teachers. 93

Martí's emphasis upon scientific education in conformity with the principles of Nature raises the question of the influence on him of Auguste Comte's philosophy of Positivism, which was very much in vogue at this time in Latin America. This system of philosophy rejected everything but natural phenomena and experience as its base. According to Miguel Jorrín, "Martí found Positivism useful as a science, but not as a philosophy."94 Raquel Catalá,by pointing to a criticism by Martí of Positivism, asserts that he rejected this philosophy.95 In addition Medardo Vitier writes that Martí never fell into the excesses of Positivism.96 Jorge Mañach, however, is of the opinion that, although Martí's philosophy took its impetus from romanticism, "Positivism was its main channel."97 Mañach's position is probably too strong here, although Martí's thoughts on education seem to be very much influenced by Positivism.

An additional tenet in Martí's philosophy of education was his irrevocable opposition to the practice of sending children away from the country for their education, particularly to the United States. He wrote:

The education of a son of these lesser countries amongst a people of opposite character and superior riches could bring the student to a fatal position in his native country, which is to make use of his education, or worse still . . . to the disdain of his countrymen.

Martí believed that a conflict would take place in their young minds at learning to speak another language, which they could never master. Being exposed to another civilization they would be left confused and inadequate to cope with life in Latin America. At the same time they would be unable to adapt themselves to the hurly-burly of life in the United States. 98

Martí's zeal to introduce the practical arts into Latin American schools in the face of an overwhelming reliance upon scholasticism is understandable. What is not understandable, however, was his failure to appreciate the values to be gained from the study of classical and modern languages, and the broadening effects of exposure to another civilization.


The Negro.—Martí frequently wrote on ethnological problems in the Americas. In Cuba he was concerned primarily with the Negro. Martí believed that the colored person had every right to be treated on his merits as a man, without any reference to his color.99 He wrote that if the Negro were to be judged on any criterion, it would be to excuse him from the faults that the white race had prepared for him, and that it had invited him to commit because of its own unjust disdain. In Martí's analysis, "White persons scorn the Negroes because they see them as victims of the wrongs they themselves have perpetrated on them." 100

Martí, in his eagerness to overcome differences be-tween Negroes and white people, went so far as to insist that there was no such thing as race. Martí, himself, however, constantly used the term "race." In his article "Mi raza" ("My Race") in Patria in 1893 he wrote that to insist on racial divisions and differences merely made public progress difficult. He was unsympathetic to the Negroes adding to the problem by proclaiming their own racism, thereby neglecting to emphasize the spiritual unity of all races. This action justly provoked the white racist. He felt that the only fair racism was the right of the Negro to maintain and to prove that his color did not deprive him of any of the capacities and rights of the human species. 101

Martí once expressed a feeling in notes on a projected book, La raza negra (The Black Race), that the Negroes in Cuba were not ready to take a full part in the cultural life of the country because of their primitive background. He wrote that he had awakened one morning and had begun formulating some ideas he had received in a dream of the Negro as a social element and how he would be affected after the liberation of Cuba. He felt that there were elements in the race itself that could be employed to combat the savagery of their heritage.102 Unfortunately the dream apparently ended right there, for Martí never specified what those elements might be. The foregoing notes by Martí have been cited by Fernando Ortiz, a leading sociologist of Cuba, as an indication of how "sociologically scientific his program was" for the role of the Negro in society. 103

The Indian.—In addition to Martí's interest in the problem of the Negro in society, he was concerned with the lot of the Indian. He looked for his subject matter elsewhere than in Cuba, however, since the Indian population there disappeared under the pressures of the early conquistadores.

As a newspaper reporter in the United States Martí wrote articles on the treatment of the Indians in the West. He was especially critical of the Indian agents, whom he accused of neglect and robbery in dealing with their charges. On the favorable side, however, in his description of life on a Cherokee Indian reservation, he was very much impressed by the fact that 50 per cent of the public funds spent on them was devoted to education.104 Although space does not permit further treatment here, the sympathetic penetration of Martí into the social and political problems of the United States in the 1880's and the skill with which he gave them literary form in Spanish can not be overemphasized.

As far as the Latin American Indians are concerned, they are mainly taken up in Martí's literary productions and in his reports from Mexico and Guatemala. It once occurred to Martí that an opportune book to write would be on the life and customs of the indigenous races of America. This work never materialized, but Martí's interest in the Indian appeared in his novel, Amistad funesta. In it he had the main character representing the Indians in a legal suit against a ranch owner who had been taking advantage of them.105 Martí also wrote a play at the request of the Guatemalan government, in which he discussed the plight of the Indian. No copy of this drama has ever been found, but Martí's notes indicate its contents. 106

Martí translated Helen Hunt Jackson's novel Ramona, as has already been mentioned, because he found it to be a sympathetic treatment of the Indians of Lower California. Martí's concern over the Indian problem in the South American Andean countries and Central America caused him to state flatly:

Can it not be seen that the same blow that paralyzed the Indian paralyzed America? And until the Indian is made to walk forward, America will not progress? 107

Martí's acumen here is evidenced by the fact that the Indian problem is still often largely ignored. For instance a Cuban student in a seminar on Latin American economic relations, upon hearing figures on the very grave status of health in Latin America, protested that these data "included Indians." 108

In ethnological problems Martí recognized that social equality was not possible until cultural equality was achieved. On the question of race in general he wrote:

In this world there is only one inferior race, belonging to it are those who consult their own interest before all else, whether it be for their vanity, pride or material welfare. Likewise, there is only one superior race, that of the ones who consult before all else the interest of mankind. 109

Martí's Status as a Philosopher

In discussing Martí's thought, Miguel Jorrín has advanced the opinion that Martí was not a philosopher in the sense of one who has organized a body of thought, but that he qualified for that appellation in that he was aware of problems that do not occur to ordinary persons.110 Félix Lizaso wrote that Martí was not a philosopher, but that there was "undoubtedly philosopher's material in him."111 Andrés Iduarte asserted that Martí was a philosopher in the sense that he was a lover of knowledge and a believer and propagandist of a moral decalogue. 112

Humberto Piñera has also asked the question, "Was Marti really a philosopher? . . . The answer must be decidedly negative: Marti was not a philosopher." Piñera arrived at this conclusion by way of distinguishing between the philosopher, who attempts to create an ideal state, and Marti, who sought to "idealize the real." In Piñera's opinion the philosopher must make no concession toward reality—an impossibility for Martí. He believes instead that Marti may be considered a "thinker." A "thinker," according to his definition, is one who seeks the "partial realization of what is real." 113

An opposite point of view is expressed by José A. Béguez César, who writes, "José Martí was a philosopher and not a thinker, as has been said." Béguez believes that a "thinker" is one who rises above himself, whereas a "philosopher" is one who not only thinks but lives his philosophy. Béguez insists, "If Martí had been only a thinker, he would never have been able to unite all opinions for the liberation effort." 114

The authorities on Martí seem to be divided between those who consider that he was a philosopher and those who do not.115 As long as no single definition of "phi-losopher" is accepted, however, there is little value in carrying the debate beyond pointing out the disagreement. Be it as "thinker" or "philosopher" or inspired moralist the evidence is overwhelming that Martí produced a wide body of writings in matters of morals that have stimulated extensive comment. An attempt will be made later to assess the impact of this material upon the Cuban people.


1 A systematized short cut to the thoughts of José Martí is a selection of 2,460 of his observations in Código martiano o de ética nacional, ed. Carlos A. Martínez-Fortún y Foyo (La Habana: Seoane Fernández y Cía., 1943). This work has been used for some of the citations in this chapter. Also see José Martí, esquema ideológico, eds. Manuel Pedro González e Ivá n A. Schulman (México: Ed. Cultura, T. G., S. A., 1961).

2Obras, ed. Quesada y Miranda, LXII, 105.

3Ibid., LXIV,172, 193-194; LXIII, 75.

4Ibid., LXII,127.

5Ibid., LXIV, 40-41.

6Diccionario del pensamiento de José Martí, ed. Lilia Castro de Morales (La Habana: Ed. Selecta Librería, 1953).

7Obras, ed. Quesada y Miranda, XXV, 183-185.

8Ibid., LXVIII,27; XII, 50; XXX, 159, 148.

9Ibid., XX, 31; XXVI, 37; II, 90; XIX, 97; II, 220; IX, 155; LXIII, 75.

10Ibid.,XVIII, 146.

11Ibid.,XVI, 145; XVIII, 41.

12Ibid.,XII, 46.

13Ibid.,I, 136; XXIV, 119-120; XI, 135; X, 21.

14Ibid.,XV, 60; XXVI, 73.

15Ibid.,XVI, 107; XI, 93.

16Ibid., XLI,97. Ibid., LXIX,

17 12; LXIV, 97, 67.

18 Cuba, El Archivo Nacional, p. 288.

19Obras, ed. Quesada y Miranda, LXVIII, 105.

20Ibid.,XXVI, 36; XVII, 217; LXII, 56, 128; LXIII, 175; LXIX, 25.

21Ibid., LXIV,194, 96.

22Lasideas en Cuba (2 vols.; La Habana: Ed. Trópico, 1938), II, 67.

23Posibilidades filosóficas en Martí (La Habana: Molinay Cía., 1935), p. 20.

24Obras, ed. Quesada y Miranda, LXII, 104.

25Ibid., LXIV,187.

26Ibid., LXVIII,67.

27Ibid.,p. 76.

28Ibid., LXVIII,115, 118; XXV, 28.

29Ibid.,XXXI, 215.

30Posibilidades filosóficas,p. 16.

31Elpensamiento político y social de Martí (La Habana: Edición Oficial del Senado, 1941), p. 27.

32 "Ideas religiosas, morales, y filosóficas de Martí," La Nueva Democracia, XXV (febrero de 1944), 26-28.

33Obras,ed. Quesada y Miranda, LXII, 73, 128-129.

34Ibid.,LXIII, 26.

35Ibid., LXVIII,114-115.

36Ibid.,III, 175; XIV, 85.

37Ibid.,I, 222; VIII, 188.

38Ibid., LXIV,28.

39Ibid.,XVII, 211; XII, 20.

40Ibid., LXIV,151; LXII, 80, 134-135.

41Ibid., LXIV,149.

42Ibid., p.87.

43 "Las ideas políticas de José Martí," Cuadernos Americanos, XIV (marzo-abril de 1944), 157.

44 "Martí y elespiritualismo," in Vida y pensamiento de Martí, ed. Emilio Roig de Leuchsenring (2 vols.; La Habana: Municipio de la Habana, 1942), I, 312.

45Obras,ed. Quesada y Miranda, LIV, 175-177.

46Ibid.,I, 35.

47Martí yla filosofìa (La Habana: Cuadernos de Divulgación Cultural #11, Comisión Nacional Cubana de la UNESCO, 1954), pp. 10-11.

48Obras,ed. Quesada y Miranda, XLI, 136.

49Ibid.,I, 72-73.

50 Lizaso, Posibilidades filosóficas, p.22.

51Obras,ed. Quesada y Miranda, XV, 32; XX, 69; XXVI, 51.

52Ibid.,XX, 69; XXVII, 43; XX, 68, 70; XIII, 137.

53 Jorrín,pp. 13-14.

54 "Karl Christian Krause," Encyclopedia Britannica, 14th ed., XIII, 501.

55Martí y el krausismo (La Habana: Companía Ed. de Libros y Folletos, 1944), p. 85.

56Posibilidades filosóficas,p. 11.

57Obras,ed. Quesada y Miranda, LXIV, 189-190.

58 Jorrín, p.13.

59Obras,ed. Quesada y Miranda, XV, 26.

60 Jorrín, p.10.

61Obras,ed. Quesada y Miranda, LXIV, 74.

62Posibilidades filosóficas, p.21.

63José Martí, obras completas,ed. M. Isidro Méndez (4 vols.; 2d ed.; La Habana: Ed. Lex, 1948), I, Tomo II, 1964.

64Obras,ed. Quesada y Miranda, LXIV, 75.

65Ibid., XLV,92-93, 123-128; LXIV, 78.

66Ibid., LIV,165.

67José Martí, obras,ed. Méndez, II, Tomo I, 85.

68Obras,ed. Quesada y Miranda, XXXIII, 194.

69Ibid.,p. 204.

70Ibid.,pp. 187-213; XXXIV, 111-132.

71 For an extended and sympathetic treatment of Martí and the McGlynn case see Emilio Roig de Leuchsenring, "Martí y las religiones," in Vida y pensamiento de Martí, I, 111-158. This author does not mention Emerson's influence on Martí nor the role of Hindu philosophy in his thought, but concentrates on Marti" s anti-Roman Catholic writings.

72José Martí, obras,ed. Méndez, II, Tomo I, 83.

73Obras,ed. Quesada y Miranda, XXIX, 197-201.

74Ibid., LXIII,19; XXIV, 50; XV, 37-38; LXIV, 194.

75 Catalá,p. 310.

76Vida y pensamiento de Martí, I,14.

77Obras,ed. Quesada y Miranda, XI, 93; XXX, 159; XXV, 186.

78Ibid.,XXV, 90; XXVIII, 167-168.

79Ibid.,XXV, 142; LXIII, 24.

80Ibid.,XXV, 142, 20.

81Ibid.,XVI, 150; XII, 156.

82Ibid.,XXVIII, 165; XXIX, 96; XXVIII, 168; XXIII, 52.

83Ibid.,XXVI, 88, 66, 48.

84Ibid., LXIV,186.

85Ibid.,IX, 164; XII, 12; XIV, 65.

86Ibid.,XXIX, 63.

87Ibid.,XXV, 66.

88Ibid., LXII,128.

89Ibid.,XXII, 123.

90Ibid.,pp. 120, 118; XXVIII, 222-223; LXIV, 169-170.

91Ibid., XX, 145.

92Ibid., XXII, 195; XIX, 123.

93Ibid., XXII, 133, 119; XIX, 177-178; XXII, 140.

94 Jorrín, p. 12.

95 Catalá, p. 300.

96 "La capacidad de magisterio en Martí," in Vida y pensamiento de Martí, II, 218-219.

97 Mañach, El pensamiento político, p. 11.

98Obras, ed. Quesada y Miranda, XIII, 76; XII, 114-115.

99 For a poetic treatment in prose of Martí's admiration for the Negro, see Armando Guerra, Martí y los negros (La Habana: Imp. Arquimbau, 1947).

100Obras, ed. Quesada y Miranda, II, 89-90; XVI, 121.

101Ibid., XIX, 21; V, 14-18.

102Ibid., XXV, 172-173.

103 "Martí y las razas," in Vida y pensamiento de Martí, II, 346.

104Obras, ed. Quesada y Miranda, XXXI, 148-149.

105Ibid., XXV, 129, 181.

106 Quesada y Miranda, Martí, hombre, p. 98.

107Obras, ed. Quesada y Miranda, XXIII, 113.

108 Author's class, Universidad de Villanueva, Marianao, La Habana, Cuba, October 8, 1956.

109Obras, ed. Quesada y Miranda, VI, 43; IX, 239-240.

110 Jor in, pp. 3-4.

111 Lizaso, Posibilidades filosóficas, p. 18.

112 Iduarte, La Nueva Democracia, XXV, 29.

113 Humberto Piñera, "Martí, pensador," in Pensamiento y acción de José Martí, Universidad de Oriente, ed. (Santiago de Cuba: Universidad de Oriente, 1953), pp. 168-169, 180-181.

114 Béguez César, p. 4.

115 For a collection of critical essays on Martí see Antología crítica de José Martí, ed. Manuel Pedro Gonz ez (México: Ed. Cultura, T. G., S. A., 1960).

Jaime Suchlicki (essay date 1966)

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Last Updated on June 7, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 5885

SOURCE: "The Political Ideology of José Martí," in Caribbean Studies, Vol. VI, No. 1, April, 1966, pp. 25-36.

[In the following essay, Suchlicki describes Martí's place in Cuban history, discussing the primary influences on his thought as well as his influence on Cuban independence. Suchlicki concludes that Martí's "dedication to the cause of Cuban independence, his love and faith in humanity, and his honest and sincere life, rank him very high among the founders of America."]

From the ideological and organizational points of view, the Cuban War of Independence represented Martí's revolution. His ideas formed the foundation on which the revolution rested, and his knocking on the conscience of the Cubans awakened the feeling that brought about the war.

The purpose of this paper is to trace the ideas of Martí regarding that war, and to probe into his mind in order to explain his political ideology; but before undertaking this task, something should be said about the history and intellectual conditions existing in Cuba during the nineteenth century.

In Cuba during the first half of the nineteenth century there was little thought of independence from Spain. Nevertheless, the revolutionary spirit of the French and American revolutions, and the struggles for independence in Spanish America inspired the minds of the Cubans with the desire for freedom. The writings and ideas of Félix Varela, José de la Luz y Caballero, José A. Saco, Domingo del Monte and others helped to create the necessary conditions conducive to revolution. Cuba had, in addition to these political and social thinkers, a tradition of poets and literary writers. José María Heredia, José Jacinto Milanés, Gabriel de la Concepción Valdés (Plácido), Cirilo Villaverde, Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda, Juan Clemente Zenea, and others, awakened in the Cuban people, with their verse and prose, a romantic love for their island and a nationalistic urge to liberate her from the Spanish yoke.

The Cubans looked to Spain for the needed reforms that would change the status quo of their oppressed island. They turned their eyes to a Spain, fighting against José Bonaparte; enacting, through the Constitution of 1812, liberal reforms; and experiencing the revolutionary era of 1820. They hoped for the extension of this liberalism to Cuba. Only when they sadly realized that the mistakes of Spanish rule in America had not been a sufficient lesson to Spain, they turned to the idea of independence.

Throughout the nineteenth century, sporadic conspiracies and revolutionary attempts were discovered by Spain, but it was not until 1868 that the first great effort was made to liberate the ever faithful island from Spanish rule. Thousands of lives were sacrificed on both sides, while Cuba was plunged into a Ten Year War. Spain, realizing that subjugation by force was impossible, agreed on granting reforms and in 1878 an armistice was reached. The Spanish generals met the insurgent leaders at Zanjón, Cuba, where a treaty was arranged, liberal reforms were granted, and the Cubans laid down their arms in good faith. Once the island was pacified, the old policy was reverted to and the treaty was shamelessly repudiated.

The failure of Spain to live up to its promises caused much dissatisfaction. The Cubans came to realize that the Spanish government would not honor its commitments and that the only solution was to continue fighting. Actually the war had never ceased. Since October 1878, a Cuban Revolutionary Committee was functioning in New York under the direction of General Calixto García, one of the military leaders of the Ten Year War. This organization, aided by war veterans still living in Cuba, began to prepare for the resumption of hostilities against Spain. On August 6, 1879, a new revolt broke out in Cuba. This premature movement, known as La Guerra Chiquita, ended a year later with the surrender of the Cuban patriots.

The years that followed were characterized by schism among the Cubans. The enthusiasm and prestige of the Cuban patriots and military leaders were not sufficient to coordinate and direct the revolutionary efforts. The need was for a figure that would inspire, with leadership and stature, the union of all the Cubans, both in exile and on the island.

This vacuum was filled by a young poet and revolutionist, whose devotion and faith in the righteousness of the cause of Cuban independence made him rise above his contemporaries to unite and lead the Cubans. Born in La Habana on January 28, 1853, of Spanish parents, José Martí spent his early years as an eager student. His environment, teachers and friends helped arouse in him a devotion to the cause of freedom, and the tradition of Cuban political writings influenced his embryonic mind. At the age of seventeen he was sent to jail for political reasons, an event which left a lasting moral and physical impression upon him. Soon thereafter he was deported to Spain, where at the age of twenty-one he received his degree in philosophy and law from the University of Zaragoza.

Martí traveled from Spain to various capitals of Europe, and in 1875 he went to México. The two years he spent in the Aztec nation were maturing years. México was going through a period of intellectual ferment, and Martí was exposed to the ideas of Gabino Barreda, Justo Sierra, Ignacio Altamirano and others. The coming into power of Porfirio Díaz prompted his departure from México to Guatemala, where he taught literature and philosophy. After the Peace of Zanjón in 1878, he returned to Cuba and began practicing law. His revolutionary activities were soon discovered by the Spanish authorities, and again he was deported to Spain, from where he escaped to France. Finally in 1880, Martí arrived in the United States and made New York the center of his activities for the next decade. Nevertheless, he continued to travel throughout America and to observe the many problems of the Latin American nations.

While the years in exile strengthened his character and prepared him for his martyrdom, his travel exposed him to the ideas of the old and new continent. In Spain Martí came in contact with the ideas of the German philosopher Krause. The Krausist ideas, imported to Spain from Germany by J. Sanz del Río, were uppermost in the Spanish thought of that time. Krause's idealism greatly influenced the ideology of Martí.1 In France Martí met Victor Hugo, whose humanism and love for the poor made a lasting impression on the Cuba exile. Three sons of Spain also had a profound influence on Martí. From Baltasar Gracián, he took his literary style, his liking for philosophical essays and for commentaries on ethics and politics; from Francisco de Goya, kindliness toward the humble and the penetration that unveiled men's souls; from his contemporary, Joaquín Costa, his love for agriculture, his friendliness for rural workers and his uncompromising repugnance for the evils of politics or expedient dissimulation.2 The years spent in exile and the persecution and imprisonment, did not make Martí resentful. He never lost faith in the inner goodness of man. "Man is organized and good", he wrote, "and in the end always saves himself." 3

What distinguished Martí and made him, above all, a leader of people, was his quality to organize and to harmonize. His mark of leadership was to take man's passions, beliefs and ideas, and mold them for a common cause. His oratory inspired his listeners, his honesty and sincerity, demonstrated by his actions, inspired faith, and his conviction in the ideas he was pursuing, gained for him the respect and loyalty of all who knew him.

Martí relied not only on the physical strength of man, but on his spiritual powers. When he had to call on virtues that men did not appear to have, he helped them bring those virtues out. Many times he said that man was not what he seemed to be, but rather what he was inside. "What mattered was not man as he was, but as he should be". 4

Martí's great undertaking was to liberate Cuba. He always felt that America would not be free as long as parts of it were not. He wanted a country fought for and won by the efforts of the Cubans—one that could respect itself and demand respect from others. He rejected the idea of a country obtained through the benevolence of a foreign power.

Martí realized very early that independence from Spain was the only solution for Cuba, and that this could only be achieved through war. No concession could be expected from Spain. Furthermore, the annexationist ideas had been taking shape in the minds of many Cubans and North Americans, and the danger of Cuba becoming a possession of the United States, convinced him that a fast and decisive war was necessary. In 1882 he referred to the advocates of annexationism in Cuba as: "An important group of cautious men, proud enough to despise Spanish domination, but too timid to risk their welfare fighting against it".5 Throughout the next decade, the annexationist ideas remained as an impending threat to the independence movement and a main concern to Marti: "The annexationists are a grave and constant factor in Cuban politics", he wrote in 1892, "and the duty of the Cubans . . . is to follow the more popular and historic solution, the more unavoidable and natural solution: the War for Independence". 6

Martí did not desire the war he was destined to organize. He fully understood the horrors of war, but he saw some positive and concrete achievements that would come out of it. "In a new and heterogeneous country", he said, "the benefits of war, for the development and unification of the national character, are greater than the partial disaster produced to the repairable wealth". 7

Martí's wisdom concerning the war resided in his understanding of the reasons that produced the failure of the Ten Year War and on his analysis of the existing conditions. In the Ten Year War indefinite prolongation, internal dissension and regionalism were vicius circles which the insurgents could not break through. Furthermore, lack of support and organization had been a definite factor in the outcome of the war. Martí realized that the triumph of the revolutionary forces was not dependent on the existence of military leaders, not even on oppressive conditions inside the island, but on popular support for the war. What was needed was to create the necessary conditions so the Cuban people would want the war and be willing to organize in pursuing its objectives. "A group of men pushed by its people", he wrote, "obtain what Bolívar did; but a group of heroes abandoned by its people might look like bandits". 8

The popular character that Martí wanted the struggle for independence to have, and his fear of a military dictatorship after the expulsion of Spain were expressed in a letter to Máximo Gómez in 1884. Gómez and Antonio Maceo, two generals of the last war, were at the time engaged in conspiratory activities. Martí had participated in them, but his fear and doubts regarding the authoritarian attitudes of Gómez prompted his break with the movement. In that letter he wrote:

A nation cannot be founded, General, in the same manner as an army camp is commanded. When in the preliminary works for a revolution there is no showing of sincere desire to compromise, what guarantees could there be that public liberties will be respected tomorrow? What are we General? The modest and heroic servants of an idea or the brave and lucky caudillos that are getting ready to take the war to a people for the purpose of later subjugating then? . . .

The fatherland belongs to no one, but if it did, it belongs, and only in spirit, to the one who serves it with the greatest unselfishness and intelligence. 9

Marti had no faith in those incomplete and rootless attempts which appeared sporadically and were born, he felt, from the desire for personal glory. He was interested in keeping watch over the awakening of Cuban feeling in order to direct it along the road for independence. To organize the war it was necessary to revive the faith of the people, and to combine all efforts so they would culminate in victory. This, Martí thought, could only be accomplished through the organization of a party. "If a revolutionary party does not exist", he wrote, "to inspire sufficient trust or channel the aspirations of the country, to whom will the people turn, but to the men of the annexationist party". 10

Martí directed all of his efforts to this end after 1884. His speeches and writings earned him respect and admiration, and his name took root in the hearts of the Cubans. Years of propaganda and constant activity had their result. By the end of 1891, the union of all the Cubans in exile was beginning to take place, and Martí was recognized as the undisputed leader and dynamic force behind the independence movement.

On January 5, 1892, Marti attended a meeting in Key West, where the representatives of the different political groups in exile approved a set of Resolutions previously drawn by Martí. These Resolutions, called Bases, constituted the foundation of the Cuban Revolutionary Party. On April 10, 1892, the Bases were unanimously proclaimed by all the Cuban and Puerto Rican emigrees in the United States. 11

Martí brought out in the Bases the ideas that had been ripening within him during the previous decade. They represented a pragmatic approach to the Cuban situation, appealed to all classes and races, and touched upon some essential political problems, on international relations, and on the organization of the war. The Bases were not aimed at defining any political philosophy to be adopted after independence, nor at creating a document that would become a source of controversy. It should, however, be noted that they were drawn with special consideration for the international situation of Cuba.

Article I contemplated complete independence for Cuba and Puerto Rico. Article II defined the character of the war as "generous and short, aimed at assuring, in peace and work, the happiness of the inhabitants of the island". Article III defined the future task of Cuba as: "fulfilling, in the historic life of the continent, the difficult duties assigned to her by her geographic position". Article IV spoke of "founding a new people, and of establishing democracy capable of defeating, through real work and the equilibrium of social forces, the dangers of sudden freedom in a society reared for slavery". Article V stated the aim of the war as "the decorum and well-being of all the Cubans and the rendering of the free fatherlando to all the people". Article VI expressed "the intention to substitute for he economic chaos reigning in Cuba a system of public fiscal administration, which shall immediately open the country to the diverse activities of its inhabitants". Article VII mentioned the desire of the party "not to alienate the peoples with whom prudence of affection suggested or imposed the maintenance of cordial relations". Article VIII enumerated five concrete objectives. The third of these objectives showed Martí's concern with the danger involved to Cuban lives when organizing a war based on popular support. He mentioned the desire of the Party "to disseminate the knowledge of the spirit and method of the revolution in Cuba, and to create in the inhabitants of the island a favorable disposition toward a revolutionary victory, which would not place Cuban lives in unnecessary jeopardy". 12

Martí gave to the party a democratic organization based on the supremacy of the civilian command over the military. The direction of the activities was placed in the hands of a delegate elected annually. From the formation of the party until its disappearance, three years later, Martí occupied that position. "The articles of the party", Martí wrote, "were established to remedy past mistakes . . . and to assure the continuous intervention of the Cuban people in the control of its own affairs". 13

From 1892 on Martí's efforts were directed toward the realization of his dream: the independence of Cuba. So well had he organized the revolution, that when he gave the order for the uprising early in 1895, the ultimate expulsion of Spain from the island was assured.

In Santo Domingo, on the eve of his departure for Cuba, Martí reiterated, in what was later known as the Manifesto of Montecristi, the reasons for the war. In this document, signed also by Gómez and issued on March 25, 1895, Martí reaffirmed the right of Cuba to obtain, through self-sacrifice and determination, its freedom and independence from Spain. He advocated a war without hate, with mutual respect for the honest Spaniard, pious with those who repented, but inflexible with vice, crime or inhuman actions. 14

The same day the Manifesto was made public, Martí wrote a letter to his friend, Federico Henríquez Carvajal, which has been considered by most Cuban historians as his political testament. Martí had become quite concerned with the expansionist activities of the United States, and he viewed them as a threat to the independence of Latin America. Conscious of his destiny and of his duty toward Cuba and toward the entire American Continent, he wrote the following:

I called forth the war; my responsibility begins rather than ends with it. For me the Fatherland will never be triumph but agony and duty . . . The person who thinks of himself does not love his country; and the ills of nations reside, however subtly they may at times be disguised, in the barriers or hasty actions with which the self-interest of their representatives retard or accelerate the natural course of events . . . The Antillas will save the independence of our America, and the now dubious and battered honor of English America, and perhaps hasten to stabilize the world . . . .l5

Soon thereafter, Marti landed in Cuba to participate in the war, but a Spanish bullet cut his life short on May 19, 1895. Martí's death represented a tremendous blow to the morale of the revolution; his voice was not to be heard again, but his writings and ideas remained to be studied by the following generations.

Martí can only be understood if we think of him as a student of social problems, rather than a purely political doctrinaire. He did not have a preconceived scheme for the organization of society, nor did he accept prefabricated molds that would impose a rigid political philosophy upon society. This, together with the fragmentary nature of his writings, makes the study of his political ideology difficult.

Martí approached the problems of society with idealism and optimism. He regarded his time as an age of progress in which man walked the earth, inspired by sentiments of love and humanity. It was the optimistic chant of a happy era when man, on his way upward, rose from his knees to dominate the world. Martí had seen man on the threshold of that world, ready for the leap that would make him the master of himself and his future greatness. To achieve this, it was man's task to develop his capabilities to the maximum. 16

For Martí, man could never be sacrificed for the agrandizement of society. He thought of man not only as an individual, but as a member of society. By fulfilling his destiny, man was to realize his place of duty and influence in the larger organism of society. The belief that a better man was destined to live in a better world is present in most of his writings.

Two ideas underlie the whole of Martí's political ideology: the idea of liberty and the idea of justice. Again and again he spoke of them as the supreme aim of human life. Martí thought of man as belonging to two groups: those who loved freedom because they only wanted it for themselves, and those who loved freedom because they wanted it for every man.17 Freedom was for him a right that entailed the obligation to extend it and respect the freedom of other men; freedom based on sacrifice and hard work. "Man", he said, "should not expect others to give him freedom, but work hard in its pursuit".18 The type of freedom that Martí advocated had to be based on custom and law, on individual rights and on the mutual respect of all classes. 19

The second idea was that of justice. "Justice", he wrote, "is the adaptation of positive law to natural law".20 But how was justice to be achieved in society? He felt that to create a just society it wasn't enough to give political liberty, it was also necessary to distribute the wealth. The accumulation of wealth in the hands of a few was conducive to injustices. "Exclusive wealth is unjust", he wrote. "In political economy and good government to distribute is to make happiness".21 He believed that the greatness of nations was dependent on the economic independence of its individuals. Therefore, it was necessary that everyone should possess and cultivate a piece of land. "The distribution of land",22 he explained, "if given to those who are working for low wages, would draw them away from low salary jobs".23 He did not advocate the taking of the land away from the large land holders, but the distribution of the land that the government possessed. "Cuba had", according to Martí, "an abundance of fertile land". 24

Martí's political ideology pointed to the suppression of the Spanish colonial system and to the establishment of a Republican type of government in Cuba. That new order, generated through revolution, would enact laws according to the needs of society. He felt that after the liberation from Spain, Cuba had to be liberated from Spanish customs and its legacy of social vices. This was to come slowly, as a process of political maturity, of education, which, without hate, would establish the foundation of a healthy Republic. The new nation was to be based on the close collaboration of all social classes, and not on the struggle of one class against the other. It would be the fatherland where everyone could live in peace with freedom and justice—a nation based on law, order and the hard work of its inhabitants. 25

The task of the government was to put an end to the injustices of society. Government was to act as the equilibrating force, active and ready to participate in the shaping of society. "The government", he wrote, "is a moderating and guiding force, ready to intervene to solve existing conflicts".26 He wanted a government born out of and in accord with the needs of the country—a government that, without creating dissatisfaction among the intellectual aristocracy, would allow for the development of the more numerous and uneducated elements of the population. 27

For the type of government Martí advocated, there was a need for an unselfish and dedicated ruler. These, he felt, were the moral qualities necessary to govern. The ruler should be, in addition, a man of culture and love. A necessary quality for the man in power was to be able to see ahead of his own times. "To govern", he wrote, "is to foresee". 28

Martí was a firm believer in democracy and in periodic elections. He thought that the natural environment for the development of democracy was in a Republican type of regime. He did not envision the possibility of Democracy flourishing in any other type of political system. He felt that elections were fundamental for the preservation of Democracy and warned against ambitious men, who wanted, through flattery and empty promises to the voters, to perpetuate themselves in power. Votes were sacred and men had not only the right, but also the duty, to vote. "A careless vote", he wrote, "is a lost right, and indifference toward elections, the forerunner of the tyrant". 29

Politics was a delicate and complex art for Martí. It was not a matter of form or ideologies, but the art of guiding and combining through pacific means the different elements in society.30 Politics could not be borrowed from other nations, but had to be indigenous to the country. "With the knowledge of the natural elements", he concluded, compromise could be agreed upon and conflicts would be prevented". 31

Martí believed in the concept of the State as expressed in the ideas of the French Revolution: a State based on natural law, with a written constitution and a division of powers. He felt that man made laws were just, only if they were based on natural law. Constitutions had to be the product of the true needs of the nation. It was impossible to make Constitutions with ideological elements alone. "A Constitution", he explained, "is a live and practical law". 32

Much has been written regarding Martí's attitude toward the United States. His writings have been slanted to show him as being strongly anti-Yankee, or to portray him as the advocate of a Latin America in the image of the United States. The truth lies, perhaps, somewhere between the two extremes. Martí admired the accomplishments of the United States, while at the same time he saw the evils of a society in which, according to him, man placed too much emphasis on material wealth and on his selfish interest. "The Cubans", he wrote, "admire this nation, the greatest ever built by freedom, but they distrust the evil conditions that, like worms in the blood, have begun their work of destruction in this mighty Republic . . . They cannot honestly believe that excess individualism and reverence for wealth are preparing the United States to be the typical nation of liberty . . . We love the country of Lincoln as much as we fear the country of Cutting". 33

Martí was a firm believer in individual initiative, private property and honest profit. He saw two evils in the United States capitalistic society: monopoly that limited the free flow of products in the national market, and protectionism, which caused the same result in international trade. For Martí, the injustices of capitalism were only temporary defects and abuses that could be remedied. He did not advocate the suppression of free enterprise. He was anti-capitalistic because of his humanitarian approach to economics and his desire for justice for the poor and the working class. ". . . the rich capitalist", he wrote, "forces the worker to work for the lowest wages . . . It is the duty of the State to put an end to unnecessary misery". 34

Martí understood the influence that economics exerted on politics. Therefore, he advocated that nations should sell to different nations, and not become dependent on any one market. "Whoever says economic union", he wrote, "says political union. The people who buy command; the people who sell obey".35 Martí viewed with alarm the economic ties Cuba had with the United States, and the danger involved in any closer commercial relations with their neighbor to the North. Realizing the economic importance of the United States and the geographical situation of Cuba, Martí advocated friendlier relations but without any political or economic dependence. He saw the impossibility of maintaining Cuban independence against the will of the United States. "We are firmly resolved", he said, "to deserve, request and obtain its (United States) sympathy, without which independence would be very difficult to obtain and maintain". 36

Martí looked at the Western Hemisphere and saw it divided into two peoples with different origins and customs. This did not mean that their relation should be based on animosity; on the contrary, he felt that with mutual understanding and respect for the sovereignty of every nation, it was possible to be friends.

People devoted to the liberation of their country are often so absorbed in the task that they become narrow-minded and lose touch with events surrounding them. Not so Martí. He was a citizen of America. Like Bolívar, he thought in terms of a continent, he looked at the events of his homeland, but never lost sight of America. He thought of himself as a son of America,and as such, he felt indebted to her37 For Martí, America began in the Río Grande and ended in the Patagonia. "The Americans", he explained, "are one in origin, hope and danger".38 He considered it a magnificent spectacle to see a continent, made up of so many factors, emerging into compact nations. What was needed was the union of all the Latin Americans. "The spiritual union", he said, "is indispensable to the salvation and happiness of the peoples of America. 39

Martí was an advocate of everything that was American. American ideas and institutions had to be the foundation on which the future would de built. American men were needed to eradicate the vices inherited from colonial times and the American past had to be studied carefully. "The history of America", he wrote, "from the Incas on up to today, should be taught very conscientiously". 40

Martí had seen the political chaos and confusion of the emerging Latin American nations and the ambitions of caudillos, who sacrificed the interest af the people in their desire to remain in power. He had witnessed the political confusion and foreseen the difficulties Cuba was to be faced with. His writings were not a mere rhetorical exercise, but a lively lesson for his contemporaries and future generations.

Each one of his ideas encompassed a moral teaching, directed toward making a better man. Martí fulfilled the concept of the man he had advocated. His dedication to the cause of Cuban independence, his love and faith in humanity, and his honest and sincere life, rank him very high among the founders of America.


1 Medardo Vitier: Martí: Estudio Integral. La Habana, 1954; p. 69.

2 Pedro de Alba: «Martí and His Pilgrimage», Pan American Union Bulletin. May 1945; p. 267.

3 «Generoso Deseo», Article in Patria. April 30, 1892. Gonzalo de Quesada, ed., Obras Completas de Martí, La Habana, Editorial Trópico, 1937; Vol. 3, p. 39. Patria, founded in 1892, was the oflicial newspaper of the Cuban Revolutionary Party, and continued to be published until the end of Spanish domination in Cuba. Through its pages, Martí was able to communicate his ideas to the Cuban exiles. Patria was, from the propaganda point of view, the most important vehicle to promote the war apainst Spain. The Obras is the most complete collection of the writings of Martí. They contain almost everything that he ever wrote. The volumes are organized in chronological order and the Guia (Guide), which comprises one volume, is of extraordinary usefulness.)

4 Article in the newspaper El Partido Liberal, México, January 30, 1891. Obras Completas, Vol. 19, p. 21.

5 Letter to Gómez, July 20, 1882. Obras Completas, Vol. 1, p. 201.

6 «The Annexationist Remedy», Patria, July 2, 1892. Obras Completas, Vol. 3;

7 «La Guerra», Patria, July 9, 1892. Obras Completas, Vol. 3; p. 187.

8 Letter to Emilio Núñez, October 13, 1880; Félix Lizaso, ed., Epistolario de José Martí, La Habana, Cultural, S.A., 1930; Vol. 1, p. 69. The Epistolario is a three volume collection of Martí's letters. Although not complete, its chronological order allows for the study of some of Martí's ideas ars they evolved with the passage of time, and for an approach and understanding of Martí, not only as a political and social write, but also as a man.

9 Letter to Gómez, October 20, 1884. Obras Completas, Vol. 1; pp. 215-219.

10Obras Completas, Vol. 1, p. 207, ar quoted in Emilio Roig de Leuchsenring, ed., Vida y Pensamiento de Martí. La Habana, Municipio de La Habana, 1942; Vol. 1, p. 89.

11 Nestor Carbonell: Martí, carne y espíritu. La Habana, 1952; p. 158.

12 The full text of the Bases can be found in: Emilio Roig de Leuchsenring, ed., «La Revolución de Martí», Cuadernos de Historia Habanera. La Habana, 1941; Vol. 19, pp. 57-58.

13 Letter to the President of the Club of Kingston, Jamaica, May 25, 1892. Obras Completas, Vol. 3, p. 75.

14 The full text of the Manifesto can be found in Obras Completas, Vol. 8, pp. 159-176.

15 Letter to Federico Henríquez Carvajal, March 25, 1895. Obras Completas, Vol. 8, pp. 187-190.

16 Article in the Magazine: La Opinión Nacional. Caracas, March 22, 1881. Lilia Castro de Morales, ed., Diccionario del pensamiento de José Martí. La Habana, Editorial Selecta, 1953; p. 180. The Diccionario is a one volume summary of Martí's thoughts; it contains short paragraphs of his writings, organized by topics, with their corresponding citations. The Diccionario gives the reader a quick reference for many of Martí's ideas, while at the same time it serves as a guide to his major works.

17 «Sobre Mariano Balaguer», Patria, April 16, 1892. Diccionario, p. 212.

18 Lecture in Steck Hall, January 24, 1880. Obras Completas, Vol. 9, p. 15.

19 Article in the Magazine: La América. New York, November 1883. Diccionario, p. 211.

20 Letter to Joaquín Macal, Minister of Foreing Relations of Guatemala, April 11, 1877. Obras Completas, Vol. 19, p. 47.

21Guatemala, Monograph published by Martí in Mexico in 1878. Obras Completas, Vol. 19, p. 87.

22Ibid., p. 71.

23 «El Partido Revolucionario a Cuba», Patria, May 27, 1893. Obras Completas, Vol. 5, p. 78.


25 Speech in the Cuban Lyceum, Tampa, November 26, 1891. Obras Completas, Vol. 9, pp. 151-170.

26 Article in the Revista Universal. México, August 14, 1875. Obras Completas, Vol. 49, p. 65.

27 Letter to Federico Henríquez Carvajal: Obras Completas.

28 «La Conferencia Monetaria», La Revista Ilustrada. New York, May 1891. Obras Completas, Vol. 22, p. 28.

29 «Las Elecciones del 10 de abril», Patria, April 16, 1893. Obras Completas, Vol. 5, p. 11.

30 «El tercer año del Partido Revolucionario Cubano», Patria, April 17, 1894. Obras Completas, Vol. 6, p. 203.

31 «Ciegos y desleales», Patria, January 28, 1893. Obras Co Co Completas, Vol. 4, p. 150.

32 Article in La opinión nacional, May 23, 1882. Diccionario, p. 110.

33 «Cuba and the United Statees», March 1889. Obras Completas, Vol. 2, p. 53. This essay was Martí's answer to two editorials, regarding the purchase of Cuba by the U.S. that had appeared in The Manufacturer of Philadelphia and the New York Evening Post. These newspapers showed extreme contempt for the people of the island. Martí denounced with passion and courage their animasity and the offense to the dignity of his countrymen.

34 Philip S. Forner: A History of Cuba. New York, International Publishers, 1963; Vol. II, p. 335.

35 «La conferencia monetaria», Op. cit.

36 Letter to Gerardo Castellanos, August 4, 1892, Epistolario, Vol. 2, p. 120, as quoted in Manuel I. Méndez: Martí: Estudio crítico-biográfico. La Habana, 1941; p. 145.

37 Letter to Fausto Teodore de Aldrey, July 1881, Epistolario, Vol. l, pp. 71-73.

38 Letter to Pío Vázquez, July 1893. Obras Completas, Vol. 19, p. 201.

39 Speech About Bolivar, New York, 1893. Diccionario, p. 67.

40 Article in El Partido Liberal. México, January 1891. Diccionario, p. 65.

Philip S. Foner (essay date 1982)

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Last Updated on June 8, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 8407

SOURCE: An Introduction to Major Poems, by José Martí, edited by Philip S. Foner, translated by Elinor Randall, Holmes & Meier Publishers, Inc., 1982, pp. 1-21.

[The editor of most English-language editions of Martí's work, Foner has written many essays on Martí's life and writings. In the essay that follows, Foner focuses on Martí's career as a poet, declaring that his "verses announce the birth of a new era in Latin American poetry."]

José Julián Martí y Pérez, "The Apostle" of Cuba, was born on January 28, 1853, in a humble two-story house on Paula Street in Havana. His father, Mariano Martí y Navarro, the son of a poor ropemaker in Valencia, Spain, had come to Havana as a sergeant in the Spanish army, married a girl from Spain, Leonor Pérez y Cabera, and decided to remain in Cuba, hoping to find a better life for himself there. He obtained a transfer to the police force and served as a night watchman in Havana and other cities.

Although his father's meager resources limited his interest in his son's education, the boy's godfather agreed to pay for his studies at the Municipal School for Boys in Havana. At the age of thirteen, he entered the Colegio de San Pablo. Its director was Rafael Maria de Mendive, a revolutionary poet and journalist, who had dedicated himself to "furthering the advancement and improvement of the society" in which he lived. Martí continued his studies under Mendive until his teacher was imprisoned by the Spanish authorities, allegedly for attending a political rally at a local theater. A visit to his imprisoned teacher left an indelible imprint on the young boy's mind.

When the "Grito de Yara" echoed across Cuba, October 10, 1868, signalling the beginning of the Ten Years' War (the first Cuban war for independence from Spain), Martí was only fifteen, too young to join the mambises, as the revolutionary fighters for independence were called. But he did write a long epic poem "Abdala," glorifying the revolution and the fighters for independence, which was published in Mendive's journal, La Patria Libre (The Free Homeland). It was not long before Mendive was exiled, and Martí himself arrested and condemned to hard labor. The cause of his arrest was a letter he and his best friend, Fermín Valdés Domínguez, had written accusing a fellow student of being an apostate for having marched in a parade with the Spaniards. The authorities found the letter, and on October 21, 1869, the two boys were arrested and confined in the Havana city jail. Four and a half months later, on March 4, 1870, the two were tried by a court-martial. Martí's friend was given six months; he himself, insisting throughout the trial that he alone was responsible for the letter, received the harsh sentence of six years at hard labor in the government quarries.

Though still a boy, Martí spent six months in backbreaking stonecutting, which left him a physical wreck, half blind and with a hernia caused by a blow from a chain which troubled him the rest of his life. Thanks to army friends of his father, Martí spent only six months in the quarry, and was then transferred temporarily to a prison on the Isle of Pines. He was finally pardoned in January 1871, but to keep him from further seditious activities, the authorities deported him to Spain. Still half blind from the work in the sun and suffering from the hernia, he wrote to his great teacher, mendive: "I have suffered much, but I am convinced that I have learned how to suffer. If I have had strength for it all and if I possess the qualities that make me a man, I owe it to you alone. From you I have acquired whatever Virtue and kindness there is in me." 1

On January 15, 1871, Martí left for Spain, and from that day until April 11, 1895, when he landed with an expedition to head Cuba's Second War for Independence, he was to visit the island of his birth on only two brief occasions.

Martí completed his academic education at the universities of Madrid and Zaragoza. He read the classics, frequented literary salons, and went regularly to the theater. Yet while he continued his studies, he devoted much of his time in Spain to political agitation. Immediately after arriving in Madrid in January, 1871, he published a scathing denunciation of Spanish treatment of political prisoners in Cuba, El Presidio Político en Cuba (Political Prison in Cuba).2 Written at the age of eighteen, it revealed Martí to be a writer of distinction and it had an important impact on liberal circles in Spain. "Pollice Verso" (Prison Recollections), published in Martí's collection of verses in 1882, contains additional comments on his prison experience. They are included below.

After he had arrived in 1871, Martí had looked forward to the day when Spain would become a Republic. Then, perhaps, Cuba might live harmoniously and peacefully with the mother country. But news came from Cuba that on November 27, 1871 a party of medical students at the University of Havana were seized by the pro-Spanish Volunteers, accused of having "profaned" the grave of Colonel Gonzalo Castañón, a reactionary editor who had been assassinated, presumably by Cuban rebels. Eight students were condemned to death, and shot at four o'clock the same morning. Some thirty others were sentenced to the chain gangs from four to six years. 3

The news of the killing of the students wrought a complete change in Martí's outlook. The bloody incident destroyed forever all desire on his part for anything less than complete independence for Cuba, and he made a vow to devote his life to this cause.

Martí's sentence of confinement to Spain was finally lifted in January 1875. He had graduated from his university studies and passed examinations for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy and Humanities with outstanding grades. Since he had been exiled, he was unable to return to Cuba legally, especially during the period of war. In order to be closer to home and to join his parents, he settled in Mexico, after short stopovers in Paris and London. He spent almost two years in Mexico, earning his livelihood as a journalist, and achieving local prestige as a lecturer and orator. His play, Amor con Amor se Paga (Love is Repaid by Love), written for the Spanish actress Concha Padilla, was successfully presented in Mexico City, and he soon gained a reputation as a member of the literary salon of "Rosario de la Acuña," which spread throughout much of Latin America, and together with his writings, made him a figure of importance on the continent.

Martí participated in debates at the Hidalgo Lyceum, represented the workers at Chihuahua at a workers' congress, published articles in Revista Universal, dealing with art, drama and social issues, and in his newspaper articles and forum discussions devoted special attention to the plight of the Indian in Mexican society. ("Until the Indian is allowed to go forward, America will not begin to advance," Martí emphasized.) He also pleaded eloquently for the Cuban cause and raised funds for the revolutionary movement on the island. 4

In January 1877, Martí returned to Cuba, landing in Havana under an assumed name—he used his second name, Julián, and his mother's maiden name, Peréz. He spent a month at home without being identified. But his precarious position made it virtually impossible for him to work, and he soon saw, too, that the cause of Cuban independence was lost for the time being. He therefore returned to Mexico and then went to Guatemala. There, thanks to a distinguished Cuban, José María Izaguirre, who had been appointed Director of the Normal School by liberal-minded President Justo Rufino Barrios, Martí found employment as professor of history and literature. In addition to teaching, he lectured, founded cultural clubs, helped edit the Revista de la Universidad, and wrote articles on the new civil code. Also while in Guatemala he wrote the play Drama Indio, and La Niña de Guatemala, one of his most famous poems. 5

During this period Martí met Carmen Zayas Bazán, a beautiful daughter of a wealthy Cuban exile, whom he married on December 20, 1877. They lived in Mexico and Guatemala until the Ten Years War ended in 1878. A general amnesty was then declared by Spain, and the young couple was finally able to return and settle in Cuba.

When Martí and his young bride, expecting a child, returned to Cuba, they found things little better than before. The key provisions of the Pact of Zanjón ending the Ten Years' War, promising Cuba political concessions, proved to be a hoax. Disappointed and enraged, Martí spoke out against the Spanish duplicity and announced his willingness to support only those who would agree to work energetically for a radical solution to all of Cuba's problems. He made it clear that he believed that independence was the solution. Rights, he declared, were "to be taken, not requested; seized, not begged for."

Captain General Ramón Blanco, the Spanish governor, called Martí "a dangerous madman," and urged his immediate imprisonment. But under pressure from Martí's friends, he promised that he would not be brought to trial if he declared in the newspapers his adherence to Spain. "Tell the General that Martí is not the kind of man that can be bought," Martí replied. The result was deportation once again to Spain. 6

On September 25, 1879, José Martí was deported under "surveillance" to Spain. During his brief stay in Cuba, he had become a father; his young bride had given birth to José Martí Zayas Bazán, to whom Martí was later to dedicate one of his loveliest collections of poetry, Ismaelillo. But by the time he left Cuba, his marriage was failing, for Carmen disapproved of his political involvements, and her husband was not one to allow domestic concerns to stand in the way of his revolutionary activities.

Escaping from his Spanish prison, Martí made his way to Paris, and then settled briefly in New York. Appointed a professor in Caracas, Martí left on March 21, 1881, for Venezuela, where he vowed to "arouse the world" to the Cuban cause. In addition to teaching he edited Revista Venezolana, the first issue of which came off the press on July 1, 1881. But his stay in Caracas was cut short by a dispute with the dictator-president, Guzman Blanco, and he left Venezuela on July 28 for New York.

Except for short trips to Mexico, Central America, Santo Domingo, and Jamaica, always in the interest of Cuban independence, Martí lived in the United States during the last fourteen years of his life. Most of these years were spent in New York or on visits to other cities, especially those like Tampa and Key West, Florida, in which there was an important colony of Cuban exiles, and most of his time was devoted to organizing for the second and final war for the independence of Cuba.

In 1881, Marti was twenty-eight. He was slightly built and of medium height, with a high forehead and penetrating eyes, slender and frail. His hands were artistically long and narrow, delicately shaped and always moving he habitually dressed in black suits and a black silk bow tie. His clothes were never new because he led a very meager existence writing for his living in New York, but they were scrupulously cleaned and neatly pressed. Martí was constantly on the go and seemed to possess boundless energy. He wrote for leading newspapers in Latin America and for the New York Sun; he translated books into Spanish; he edited Patria, the organ of the Cuban Revolutionary Party, the party organized by Martí on January 5, 1892, after two years of intensive preparations, to lead the second war for independence. He published La Edad de Oro (The Golden Age), a magazine for youngsters; he wrote poetry, essays, articles, plays, and children's stories; he served as consul for Uruguay and Argentina. And all the time he spoke at countless meetings, many sponsored by Cuban tobacco workers in Florida and New York, and poured out a stream of pamphlets, articles, and essays for the Cuban revolutionary cause. 7

On February 24, 1895, the grito or "cry" was sounded at Baire, a village about 50 miles from Santiago de Cuba, heralding the beginning of the second war for Cuban independence, a liberation movement brilliantly organized by José Martí. On April 1, 1895, Martí (in the company of the military leaders of the rebellion) left Montecristi, Santo Domingo, bound for Cuba. On April 11, he made his landing on the beach at La Playita in Dos Rios, eastern Cuba.

On May 18, Martí wrote from Dos Rios to Manuel Mercado, his friend in Mexico. The letter opened: "I am now, every day, in danger of giving my life for my country."8 The letter was never finished. On May 19, the Spaniards attacked. Though ordered by the military leaders to remain with the rear-guard, Martí rode forth to his first encounter with the Spaniards. As he rode through a pass, Spanish soldiers in ambush shot him down. Attempts to retake Martí's body were futile. The Spaniards carried it away to Santiago de Cuba, where on May 27, 1895, José Martí was buried.

"He died," wrote Charles A. Dana of the New York Sun, a friend and admirer of Martí, "as such a man might wish to die, battling for liberty and democracy." 9

José Martí was a rare combination of man of ideas and man of action. "Ideas were for him weapons in the fight for a better world, in which freedom for Cuba was the first step," one student has correctly observed. He was a man of many talents: a lawyer, a poet, a master of the Spanish language, a great orator, in many universities in Latin America a teacher of language, literature and philosophy, a distinguished journalist, a diplomat, and the organizer of every detail of the Cuban revolution. His writings made him so admired and respected throughout Spanish-speaking America that Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay made him their consular representative in the United States.

Martí's writings, collected and edited by Gonzalo de Quesada y Miranda, fill 70 volumes. Even this edition is incomplete since there still remains uncollected material scattered in South American newspapers. 10

José Martí's prose writings occupy the great bulk of these volumes. Martí is that unusual kind of writer of whose prose and poetry we can think equally highly. The strength and rhythmical felicity of the prose are reflected in so much of the poetry—and vice versa. But probably more has been written of Martí the poet than of Martí the prose writer. 11His poetry has earned him the enthusiastic praise of such distinguished authorities as Gabriela Mistral, Rubén Darío, Miguel de Unamuno, Fernando de los Ríos, Rufino Blanco, Fombona Amado Nervee, Ivan A. Schulman, Andrés Iduarte, Félix Lizaso, Juan Marinello, Federico de Onís, Ángel I. Augier, Guillermo Díaz Plaja, Eugenio Flout, Juan Carlos Giano, Emir Rodríguez Monigal, Alfredo A. Roggiano, Miguel de Cinamino y Jugo, Cinto Vitier, Manuel Pedro González, Juan Carlos Giano, and Roberto Fernández Retamar. 12

Although the birth of Modernism as a movement is generally considered to have occurred with the 1888 publication in Chile of Azul (Blue), a collection of verse and prose by the Nicaraguan poet Rubén Darío, these and other critics point out that Martí's poetry opened the way for modernismo in Spanish American literature, and that Martí anticipated its key features—daring use of new rhythms and meters, broadening the resources of language in free verse, wide use of symbolism, and rejection of traditional principles of Spanish versification and excessive sentimentalism of Romanticism.

In his literary testament presented to Gonzalo de Quesada on the eve of his death, Martí criticized and classified his poetry within two short sentences: "None of my verses should be published before Ismaelillo. None of them are worth bothering with. Those which come afterwards to the end, are worth something. They are sincere."13 Actually,Martí's verses prior to 1882, when Ismaelillo was published, reveal his great creative power. But they are very much influenced by the classical Spanish writers and are in the traditional vein. In his introductions to his greatest works of poetry, which "come afterwards", we can observe the difference in approach. In the preface to Ismaelillo, Martí writes:

If someone tells you that these pages are like other pages, tell them that I love you too much to thus dishonor you.

In the introduction to Versos Libres, he writes:

These are my poems. They are what they are. I have not borrowed them from anyone. As long as I was unable to lock up my visions whole, and in a form worthy of them, I let them fly. Oh, how many old friends that have never flown! But poetry has its honesty. And I have always wanted to be honest. I know how to pare my poems, but I do not wish to do so. Just as every man has his own physiognomy, every inspiration has its own language. I love the difficult sonorities, the sculptural line: vibrant as porcelain, swift as a bird, scalding and flowing as a tongue of lava. . . .

I have never concocted poems for this one or that one, but trapped them from my very self. They are not written with academic ink, but with my own blood. . . . I love honesty and difficult sonorities even if they seem brutal.

Then in the introduction to Versos Sencillos, Martí writes:

These poems are printed because they have already been made public by the affection with which some good souls received them one night of poetry and friendship. And because I love simplicity and believe in the need of putting one's feelings into plain and honest forms.

Each one of these great poetic compositions is a reflection of the poet himself. Martí does not belong to those "exterior" poets who write verses to rhyme words. (And Martí dominated rhyme like a classicist.) But he belongs rather to those who write because of intimate necessity, to those who seek in verse the alleviation of their profound restlessness.

In April 1882 Thompson and Moreau of New York City published the short book of fifteen tender poems (with a brief prose introduction) by Martí about his son Pepe to whom he gave the name of Ismaelillo. At the outset there is a dedication which explains the reasons for the verses: "Fearful of everything I seek refuge in you." But there is also Martí's constant optimism, in the midst of disappointment and failures, in the victory of his cause. His son symbolized for Martí the Cuba of tomorrow, a free and independent homeland.

Ismaelillo was written in Venezuela the year before its publication while Martí's only son was living in Cuba. The heartbreak he experienced as a result of the separation is fully revealed in the fifteen poems. On the surface the verses seem motivated by a loving sense of humor on the part of a father toward his son. However, the depth of thought that is revealed upon closer examination, shows an intense feeling and almost passionate desire to be reunited with his son, for that reunion would also signify the liberation of his country and the end of Martí's exile from his beloved Cuba. In the spirit of teacher and reformer, the father included bits of the moral code and criticism of the existing situation, as he poured forth his lament as an explanation of the separation.

Marti dedicated his verses to the memory of the dwarf-like prince who is his son, and the poetry is a gay celebration that expresses the happiness of the father as he remembers the child and his pranks. He describes his dwarf-like prince, the child Pepe who has blond locks of hair, white locks, locks that denote his innocence. The boy's eyes are like those of his father; they fly with enthusiasm; they shine like the stars; they palpitate like the wind; they burn with desire and passion. The memory of the child's kisses, his smile, his games, are a constant source of joy to the father. The will of the dwarf-like prince is the father's command. Rubén Darío has observed that Ismaelillo is a book of poetry on the art of being a father. 14

Martí explains that he is the vassal of his king of hearts,his son, just as men are the vassals and slaves of greater powers, and he has subjugated himself to the whim and fancies of his child prince. The poet pledges loyalty to Pepe, the symbol of a future and independent native land. At times, he experiences the torment of the separation and exile, but when the boy appears again in the dreams of the celebration he receives good counsel and explanations as to why this father must live in foreign lands against his will.

In the development of the poems, the positions of the father and son are reversed. The vassal of thought is Pepe, and he is to listen to and heed all the advice dedicated to him within the verses of Ismaelillo. He must realize that there is absolute truth in the statement that morality is important in life. If Pepe is to come under the domination of the devilish spirit and to desire a life of immorality and impurity, the father would prefer to see him dead rather than subjugated to the tyranny of the yellow king—who is the diabolic force—yellow denoting the stains of immorality, impurity, hate and deceit.

But if you seem to love
The yellow king
Of the men, Die with me!
To live impure?
Don't live, my son!


In Ismaelillo, Martí departed from the style of verses he had written as a youth. These fifteen poems, as Rubén Darío and Juan Mannello have both emphasized, represent Martí the poet in the full maturity of his career of letters, and the work is truly a major element in Cuba's contribution to Latin American literature. With publication of Ismaelillo, Martí emerged as a first rate poet. Because of the simplicity of the verses, the book has been commonly recognized as one of the first utterances of the Modernist movement. In his study, Precursores del Modernismo, Torres Rioseco points to the departure in Ismaelillo from the antiquated romantic style,16 while Eugenio Florit notes that this small book signifies the advent of a new literary school and the departure of Romanticism: "From this book, from this date, begins American Modernism." Finally, the distinguished Dominican critic Pedro Enrique R. Ureña writes: "Martí had no intention of starting a literary revolution, involved as he was in his plan of political insurrection. But 1882, the year in which Ismaelillo was published, should be considered as the starting date of a new tendency in our poetry, later known under the colorless title of Modernism." 17

The poems in Martí's Versos Libres, written between 1878 and 1882, are another remarkable contribution to Hispanic American literature.18 The verses are free in every sense of the word, free in form, unshackled, the subject matter being whatever troubled the sensitive soul of the poet at the moment. They were another stepping-stone on the way to Modernism.

The poems are the expression of Martí's love for freedom. The title itself reflects this sentiment. Rubén Darío, the father of Modernism, noted the play on the word "free."19 They are free verses because they are written in a style that adheres to no special constant rhyme though the meter is the hendecasyllable (a verse of 11 syllables). The verses were written in Martí's own blood as he notes in the dedication: "Wounds are these of my own soul—my warriors. None has emerged overheated, artificial, recomposed, from my mind, but as tears stream from the eyes, and as blood spurts from a wound. 20

The poet is the tortured lover of his native land, and though his body remained forever in exile, his heart was true to Cuba. The tormented man looks out upon the beautiful tropical fields, and observes that Cuba is in a state of slavery. His lips tremble with anger. He calls to mind the negligent and melancholic earth that is situated in the shadows of the overpowering bondage of impurity and immorality. His failure to attain his goal does not impair the strength of his iron will for the ideal of liberty. He exclaims that a basket of flames is to give hope to his generation of Cubans. He reveals the depth of his emotions:

Oh soul, good soul! Yours is a difficult task!
Kneel down, be still, submit, and lick
The sovereign's hands; exalt, forgive shortcomings,
Or have them—which is the best way
To forgive them—and, timorous and meek,
Rejoice in wickedness, enshrine the vanities,
And then you'll see, my soul,
Your poor man's empty dish transformed
Into a plate of richest gold!
But be on guard, oh soul,
For men today use tarnished gold!
So pay no heed—the fops and scoundrels
Make their trinkets out of gold,
But not their guns; their guns are made of iron!


The poet's life is symbolized in the comparison be-tween the yoke that represents his bondage in life and the star that is the freedom from tormenting realities and the vices of society. The poet was born to be the hero of his native land, but meanwhile he suffers the torments of exile. He is no longer Cuban, but a stranger, a wandering traveler, without a specific country, who continues his journey from land to land in the Americas. He wishes to return home, but is compelled to complete his task. He prepares to die, for he has observed that a good soul can no longer exist on earth. He believes that the end of life brings the hidden salvation of humanity. He desires the kiss of death. He laments the never ceasing struggle of the patriots, and he condemns the traitors. He recalls how from early youth he fought for his ideal, for he loved life. And now, the poet longs for the flowers of heaven. In the meantime, he wishes to abandon himself to the wide open spaces. 22

Eugenio Florit notes that Martí is never the artificial stylist, and that the Cuban poet, in the manner of the Romantics, does not scorn the use of the classical elements. But Martí, he emphasizes, gives them a greater freedom than previously. Juan Mannello observes that the grandiose theme and resulting episodes of the fight for freedom produce a poetry that approaches the traditional ode. Mannello adds that the free verses are a product of Martí's maturity, his sincerest ideas and ideals. Rubén Darío wrote that the "rough Hendecasyllabic (eleven-syllable) verses were born of great fears, of great hopes, or the insatiable love for liberty or of sad love." Miguel de Unamuno observed:

I read them twice and aloud; one of them I read to a blind friend of mine who is a poet. The obscurity, the confusion, even the disorder of these free verses enchanted us. This dishevelled, touselled poetry, unadorned, brought us the free wind of the forest, blocking off the vapors carrying those effeminate perfumes of the salon or those singable verses issuing from the swaying of the hammock, or the oversweet sing-song with which young ladies, who bang on the piano, amuse themselves. 23

In June 1891 appeared the final complete book of poetry that José Martí was to publish during his lifetime. 24Published by Louis Weiss and Company of New York City, the book carried the simple, unaffected title Versos Sencillos. It was dedicated to two friends, Manuel Mercado of Mexico and Henry Estrájulas of Uruguay. To Martí there is nothing so sacred as friendship, and though there may be treasures and material riches, for the poet the greatest jewels are his friends.

The poems were written during the summer of the previous year in the heart of the Catskill Mountains, where Martí had gone for a much needed rest to recover his health. As is almost all of his poetry, these verses are a self-portrait in which Martí opens his heart, mind and soul to view. Frankness and simplicity pervade every line. The first stanza of the first book is typical of the work:

I am an honest man
From where the palm trees grow;
Before I die I want my soul
To pour forth its poetry.


In these simple verses, product of the mature Martí,there are elements of Romanticism, such as in the episodes of the mother who is in search of her son as he is in danger, the father who casts a blow at the traitor, who is his son, the dance of the Spanish ballerina, and the death and burial of the "niña de Guatemala." The poet remembers his parents. He calls to mind an incident during an uprising in his native city when his mother came to take him home. He recalls the deep respect the revolutionists displayed in the presence of his mother, with the removal of their hats, symbol of the struggle that had taken the life of a son. The good woman kissed her son, and prayed fervently in gratitutde to God for having kept the youthful fighter alive. The poet's thoughts wander to his father, the symbol of the homeland and its honor. The father who was a poor artillery man, a soldier, and a worker, is dead:

I thought of the poor artillery man.
He is in the tomb; quiet:
I thought of my father, the soldier:
I thought of my father, the worker.


The description of the Andalusian ballerina is colorful and fiery, and the poet is intrigued by the body and physical aspects. The spectator is enveloped by the flame of the dancer's eyes and the fiery colored cloak. Forehead raised, cloak across the shoulders, arms lifted in an arc, she clicks her heels with the aid of the castanets, as though it were the rapid beating of hearts. The body sways and swerves and the mouth that is like a rose is opened, for the dancer is very tired. She returns to her corner with tremulous heart and all alone. 27

In Guatemala his chess-playing took Martí into one of the best homes, that of the ex-President of the Republic, Don Miguel García Grandados, the father of five daughters: Adela, María, Christina, Leonor, and Luz. María suffered silently in her love for Martí, and when the poet married Carmen Zayas Bazán, she became despondent over the fact that her love had not been returned. When Martí brought back his bride from Mexico, her condition grew worse. When María died, Martí knew that she had died of love, and not of disease, as was reported. She is "la niña de Guatemala" in one of the most famous love poems in Latin American literature.

The poet recalls that María gave him a perfumed pin cushion when he was taking leave of her to go to Mexico. She presented that cushion to him so that he would not forget her, but he returned to marry another woman. The youth remembered the burial, and the kiss he had placed on her forehead for the last time.

The poet has little contempt for himself. Nevertheless, the thought and memory of María García Grandados are so beautifully told in the spirit of undying love that one cannot escape the conclusion that José Martí did love this young girl, perhaps as he loved his friends. Upon recalling the last kisses he gave to the young Guatemalan girl, Martí noted that hers was the forehead he had loved most in his life. 28

The poet casts off the spell and returns to his fundamental theme of freedom and independence for Cuba, his native land. Marti was only a child when he saw for the first time the exploitation and abuse of the slaves. It was a beginning of his fight for freedom and equality:

A child saw him: He trembled
With passion for those who whimper:
And at the foot of death, he swore
To wash the crime with his blood!
I know of one great sorrow
Among the nameless ones:
The world's enormous sorrow
Is human slavery!

The child who witnessed the harsh treatment of the Negro slaves took it upon himself to side with the unfortunate ones:

With the poor of the earth
I wish to share my fate
The mountain stream delights me
More than the sea.


José Martí was the poet and author of his death. It was his dream to die as a hero, for all good men die young and heroically. He would prefer, upon dying, a branch of flowers, which signified his love for Mother Nature, and a flag, which symbolized his desire for a free native land. José Martí was a sincere man from the land where the palm trees grow, and before his death, he wished to let the verses in his heart overflow.

In Sound Patterns in a Poem of José Martí: Phonemic Structures and Poetic Musicality, Ned Davison has made an admirable study of Martí's Versos Sencillos, the eighteen stanzas beginning "Yo soy un hombre sincero . . ." ("I am a sincere man"). He chooses these stanzas to analyze because, although they are well known, they are not normally identified as being "musical." Davison does not call Martí a musical poet. Nevertheless, he painstakingly notes the interplays of sound contained in the poem. He notes a "sense of order, suggesting discipline, control, and sureness," that provides credible structure for the poem.30 Martí's in-> sistent use of yo, for example, forms a phonemic and conceptual pattern. Davison devotes the latter half of his book to stanzaic plates, an unusual yet handy visualization of the sound patterns. This system of graphics adequately illustrates his phonemic analysis based on the poem's sounds.

With the publication of Versos Sencillos, Martí revealed that he was a master poet. The simple verses are the product of a deep thinker and master craftsman. It is hardly surprising that the vast bibliography of works dealing with Martí includes many articles, essays, and commentaries dealing with Versos Sencillos. Critic after critic has hailed the values and importance of the verses, and all agree that they are the most sincere expression of José Martí, poet.

When José Martí was about to leave for Cuba in 1895, he closed his career as a poet with a farewell poem:

Adios. El vapor irá
En la semana que viene:
Ya lo tiene, ya lo tiene
Un amigo que se va.

Yo de mi le he de decir
Que en seguirlo, sereno,
Sin miedo al rayo ni al trueno
Elaboro el porvenir

José Marti

Goodby. The boat leaves
Next week.
Now you have a friend
Who's leaving.

And of me I must say
That following serenely,
Without fear of the lightning and thunder
I am working out the future

José Martí

José Martí the poet appeared at a moment of transition within Latin American culture and Spanish heritage. He rejected the foreign elements that were not in accord with the spirit of his native land, and with the use of enriched language, metaphors and similes, symbolic tones and colors, ushered in the literary movement that is purely Hispanic American and belongs exclusively to Latin America. In the process he announced the advent of Hispanic American Modernism. With Ismaelillo the embryo of the Modernist movement on the American continent was born.

Martí joins together the elements of the most elevated romanticism with symbolism, mysticism, the baroque tendencies, French influences, Spanish heritage, and Hispanic American culture. He announces the new and completely American literary movement with a wealth of language and with a great use of symbolism. All of Martí's poetry is rich in symbolism. Already in Ismaelillo there are numerous colors that signify certain qualities. The whiteness of innocence is joined with the white locks of Pepe, and the color of blood is the flame of the hero's soul. At times, the sadness of the poet is expressed with symbolic colors of vagueness, uncertainty, and mystery. But the poet's optimism triumphs, and the clouds are suddenly rosy with the poet's renewed strength. When the son appears again, the father's body is like a kissed rose, and he experiences a moment of joy. Rubén Darío has observed that rose color was the fundamental expression of Martí. "I believe," Darío wrote, "that just as Banville used the word 'lira' and Leconte de Lisle the word 'negro,' Martí most often used the word 'rose.'" 32

The rainbow of red, green, yellow, rose, violet, black, and white tinctures of Ismaelillo continues to be present in the other verses of Martí, principally in the Versos Sencillos. Indeed, the Versos Sencillos are viewed as representing the mature stage and the highest point of Martí's development as a poet. In the prologue, the author clarifies his style: "I love the simpleness and believe in the necessity to put the sentiment in simple and sincere forms." But the simplicity of José Martí can be deceptive. Rubén Darío noted this difficulty in commenting on Versos Sencillos: "The simpleness of Martí is one of the most difficult to understand, because you don't get into it without a vigorous domination of the word and without much understanding. 33

The verses are simple because the poet is of the people, and he cast his lot with the people, and therefore he has elevated the chromatic expressions of daily life to the art of verse. He would rather cast his lot with the impoverished ones on earth, for the brook pleases him more than does the vast sea. Here we have a clear illustration of a union based on the simplicity of form and complexity of thought. In Versos Sencillos, Martí takes the Spanish popular meter, the octosyllabic line, and converts the popular element of the Spanish classicists into a form that is dedicated to all of Hispanic America. Andrés Iduarte noted this popular element, and wrote: "Martí follows the romance, now you see, but he modifies and varies the romance. It is the best tradition always mixed with his natural originality. Those are the common classical verses, but not like all restored and renewed. It is the return to the classic, but with modern development." 34

"Poetry must have its roots in the soil," Martí wrote, "and its base on real fact." He was the poet of the people because he understood the suffering of the poor. For he, too, had suffered. "My verses leap from pain," he wrote in the earlier Flowers of Exile, "as swords from their case when spurred by wrath, as the black waves with turbulent and high crests that whip against the tired sides of a ship in times of storm. It would be strange if the black shroud would open and a twig of roses should fall out."35 In a letter to his friend Gabriel Zéndegui, written in July 1882, he discussed the poetry which had inspired his revolutionary duty, and that which was born of the most personal emotion. He says of Ismaelillo: "Not this time when I slept on a pillar of roses, could my head forget the pillow of stone on which I usually sleep; and the verses I make . . . are verses made from sleeping on a pillow of stone." 36

Observing that the Versos Sencillos are born of the people, Gabriela Mistral adds that "because of his popularist behavior, the verses of Martí reverberate in the ears and are fixed in the memory like a ringing tune."37 "Martí," emphasizes Manuel Pedro González, "is the theoretician of authentic modernism. His poetry, so innovative and revolutionary, becomes like the theoretical base of the movement."38 Martí takes the old elements of literary art—classical, mystical, conceptual, and romantic tendencies which are part of the Spanish tradition—and flavors them with the Hispanic temperament—brevity of poetry, stylistic color schemes, and symbolism with metaphors and images. His style changed as he matured. The earlier poetry was styled to suit the dramatic and fiery spirit of the youthful Martí, but more and more, the verses approach the final stages with their simplicity in form and complexity in thought and sentiment. However, the romanticist is still present in maturity, and he both goes backward to Spanish classicism and goes forward to Hispanic America. As Juan Marinello points out in writing of Ismaelillo: "While using the seguidilla (the Spanish stanza of four or seven verses), Martí had succeeded in both confirming and broadening 'the popular.'" 39

In the poetic work of José Martí, hidden European influences and a Spanish literary basis may be found. But in reality the verses announce the birth of a new era in Latin American poetry. The verses of Martí are transitional, and with each poem, he moves toward a simplicity of form and depth of thought and sentiment that characterize his most mature poetic efforts. In his wish to express his sincerity and honesty with a wealth of language and individualism, he provides both the artistic purpose and tinctures of pure Modernism. Therefore, Rubén Darío, the father of the movement, called Martí "hijo" (son). 40

But Federico de Onís shrewdly observes that Martí's modern tendencies reach points far beyond those of the Modernists. "His modernity points further than that of the Modernists, and today it is more valid and clear than it was even then." 41

With his social preoccupations and spirit of reform,Martí reaches beyond stylistic endeavors emphasized by the Modernist school, reaches beyond the realm of pure poetic art, and includes the spirit of universality and philosophy within the lyric quality of his verses. "In Martí," wrote José A. Portuondo, "the often intimate and autobiographical verse does not shirk the collective problems. His own anxieties, along with everyone else's, are joined in the sorrowful or wrathful song that never falls into the commercial, for the poet expressed passionately what he truly feels, and the verse is not a poster, it is a confidant, it is the friend that comes to converse after the strenuous tasks of the day." 42

As for Martí, himself, he summed it all up in his essay on Walt Whitman where he wrote:

Who is the ignoramus who maintains that people can dispense with poetry? Some persons are so shortsighted that they see nothing in fruit but the rind. Whether it unites or divides the soul, strengthens or causes it anguish, props it up or casts it down, whether or not it inspires a man with faith and hope, poetry is more necessary to a people than industry itself, for while industry gives men the means of subsistence, poetry gives them the desire and courage for living. 43


1 Philip S. Foner, History of Cuba and Its Relations with the United States, vol.11 (New York, 1963), pp. 41, 65, 125, 134, 141, 162 173; Jorge Mañach, Martí, Apostle of Freedom, trans. Coley Tayor, introduction by Gabriela Mistral (New York, 1959), p. 76.

2 An English translation of El Presidio Politico en Cuba (Political Prison in Cuba) appears in Our America: Writings on Latin America and the Struggle for Cuban Independence, translated by Elinor Randall, edited with an introduction and notes, by Philip S. Foner (New York, 1977), pp. 151-89.

3 Foner, History of Cuba, vol. II, pp. 176-77.

4 Mañach, Martí, pp. 134-36.

5 Félix Lizaso, José Martí: Martyr of Cuban Independence, trans. Esther E. Shuler (Albuquerque, New Mexico, 1953), pp. 135-38.

6 Mañach, Martí, p. 162.

7 For a detailed discussion of Martí's work in organizing the Second War for Independence, see Foner, ed. Our America, passim.

8 José Martí, Obras Completas (La Habana, 1946), vol. I, pp. 271, 285-93. Of the various collected works of Martí, this, the "Lex" edition, is the most convenient. The most complete, however, at present is "Editorial Trópico," published in Havana between 1936 and 1949.

9 New York Sun, May 23, 1895; Foner, History of Cuba, vol. II, p. 357.

10 What will probably be the first complete edition of Martí's writings and the first scholarly edition is now being prepared in Cuba by the Centro de Estudios Martianos, under the direction of Roberto Fernández Retamar.

The following are Martí's writings available in English: The America of José Martí, edited and translated by Juan de Onís; Martí on the U.S.A., edited and translated by Luis A. Baralt, and the four volumes translated mainly by Elinor Randall and edited, with introductions and notes by Philip S. Foner: Inside the Monster: Writings on the United States and American Imperialism; Our America: Writings on Latin America and the Struggle for Cuban Independence; On Education: Articles on Educational Theory and Pedagogy, and Writings for Children from The Age of Gold, and On Art and Literature: Critical Writings.

11 Manuel Pedro González makes the point that "Martí was the most read and admired prose writer in the Hispanic world in those years (between 1880 and 1900), and it was through his marvellous prose that young writers and poets became familiar with his poetry." José Martí en el octogésimo aniversario de la iniciación modernista, (Caracas, 1962,) pp. 16-17.

12See Manuel Pedro González, José Martí en el octogésimo aniversario de la iniciación modernista, (Caracas, 1962); Ivan A. Schulman y Manuel Pedro González, Martí, Darío y el modernismo, (Madrid, 1969); Ivan A. Schulman, Símbolo y color en la obra de José Martí, (Madrid, 1960); Andrés Iduarte, Martí, escritor, (La Habana, 1951); Félix Lizaso, Martí, místico de deber, (Buenos Aires, 1940); Angel I. Augier, "Martí poeta, su influencia innovadora en la poesía de América," Vida y Pensamiento de Martí, (La Habana, 1942), vol. II, pp. 265-333; Rubén Darío, "Martí poeta," Antología crítica de José Martí, (Mexico, 1960), pp. 267-95; and Rubén Darío, "José Martí," in Poesías Completas, prologo y notas de Luis Alberto Ruix, (Buenos Aires, 1964), pp. 293-301; Guillermo Díaz Plaja, "Lenguage, verso y poesía en José Martí," Cuadernos Hispanomericanos, vol. XXXIX, 1953, pp. 312-22; Eugenio Fiorii, "José Martí, vida y obra, Versos," Revista Hispánica Moderna, vol. XVIII, 1952, pp. 20-71; Juan Carlos Ghiano, "Martí poeta," Poesía (de Martí), (Buenos Aires, 1952), pp. 7-52; José Olivio Jiménez, "Un ensayo de ordinación transcendente en los 'Versos Libres' de José Martí," Revista Hispánica Moderna, vol. XXIV, 1968, pp. 671-84; Juan Mannello, "Martí: Poesía," Anuario Martiano, vol. I, 1969, pp. 117-65; Juan Mannello, José Martí: Los Poetas, (Madrid, 1972); Gabriela Mistral, La lengua de Martí, (La Habana, 1943); Emir Rodríguez Monegal, "La poesía de Martí, el modernismo," Archivo José Martí, 1953, pp. 38-67; Emir Rodríguez Monegal, "Sobre los Versos Libres de José Martí," Archivo José Martí, 1974, pp. 7-9; Miguel de Unamuno y Jugo, "Artas de Poeta," Obras Completas (Madrid, 1958), vol. VIII, pp. 573-77; Alfredo A. Roggiano, "Poetica y estilo de José Martí," Humanitas (Argentina), vol. I, pp. 351-78; Cinto Vitier, Los Versos de Martí, (La Habana, 1969); Juan Carlos Ghiano, ed., Poesía, (Buenos Aires, 1952); Eugenio Florit, Versos, (New York, 1962).

13 Raimundo Lida, Páginas Selectas de Martí, Buenos Aires, 1939, p. 282.

What is probably Martí's first poem is "A mi madre" dated 1868. Other early poems of Martí include a family album, a recollection of imprisonment and resulting exile, fond memories and references to friends. They include poems published in various periodicals in Cuba, Mexico and New York. In general they represent the period of Martí's poetry which was characterized by pomp and splendor and stood in sharp contrast to the mature stage of simplicity of form and depth of thought. (Amelia Hipschman, "José Martí as a Poet," unpublished M.A. thesis, Columbia University, 1949, p. 29.)

14 Rubén Darío, "José Martí, poeta," Archivo José Martí, vol. VII, p. 336.

15See below p. 14.

16 Torres Rioseco Precursores del Modernismo, (Madred, 1925), p. 86.

17 Eugenio Florit, "Notas sobre la poesía en Martí," Archivo José Martí, vol. IV, p. 19, Pedro Enrique Ureña quoted in José Martí: Versos Seveillos y Otras Poemas, (Madrid, 1952), pp. 6-7.

18 Though edited and arranged by Martí for publication, they were not published until 1913.

There are several excellent studies of Versos Libres including those by Cinto Vitier in Antología Crítica de José Martí, (Mexico, 1960); by Ivan A. Schulman in José Martí, Versos Libres, (Barcelona, 1970), and by Juan Mannello in José Martí: Los Poetas, (Madrid, 1972).

19 Rubén Darío, "José Martí, poeta," p. 337 and quoted in Iduarte, Martí Escritor, p. 101.

20Obras Completas, vol. XX, p. 136.

21Ibid., p. 137.

22Ibid, p. 138.

23 Florit, "Notas", p. 22; Juan Mannello, "José Martí, Artista," Reportarlo Americano, San José de Costa Rica, vol. XXVI, Año XIV, p. 294; Darío, "José Martí, Poeta," pp. 338-39: Miguel de Unamuno quoted in José Martí, Versos Sencillos y Otros Poemas, (Madrid, 1952), pp. 7-8.

24 As we have noted in the case of Versos Libres, several of Martí's poetical works were published after his death. Flores del Destierro (Flowers of Exile), poems of the youthful Martí, were published for the first time in Cuba in 1933. The Versos de Amor, published for the first time in Cuba in 1930, also belong to the youthful period of Martí's life.

25Obras Completas, vol. XX, p. 149.

26Ibid, p. 151.

27Ibid., p. 153.

28Ibid., p. 162.

29Ibid., p. 164.

30 Ned Davison, Sound Patterns in a Poem of José Martí: Phonemic Structures and Poetic Musicality, (Salt Lake City, 1975), p. 45.

31See, for example, "Los Versos Sencillos de José Martí," Archivo José Martí, vol. V, pp. 43-53.

32 Darío, "José Martí, poeta," p. 327.

33 "Martí en Darío," Archivo José Martí, vol. VII, p. 380.

34 Iduarte, Martí, Escritor, p. 134.

35 Editorial Lex, vol. I, p. 802.

36 Juan Mannello, José Martí: Los Poetas, p. 57.

37 Gabriela Mistral, "El silenco de los sencillos en Martí," Alat, Puerto Rico, 1939, vol. X, p. 14.

38 González, "José Martí en el octogésimo. . . . ," p. 15.

González correctly stresses that Martí's prose must also be considered as initiating the modernist movement in Latin America, and notes: "What historians and critics did not realize throughout 40 years, was the very essential and capital importance that prose had in the modern renaissance produced between 1880 and 1900." (Ibid, p. 17.)

39 Mannello, José Martí: Los Poetas, p. 72.

40 Iduarte, Martí Escritor, p. 33.

41 In Raimundo Lida, Páginas Selectas de Martí, (Buenos Aires, 1952), p. VII.

42 Quoted in Trajectory and Actuality of Martí, (Center of Studies on Martí, La Habana), 1961, pp. 39-40.

43On Art and Literature: Critical Writings by José Martí, translated by Elinor Randall, with an introduction and notes, by Philip S. Foner (New York, 1981), p. 126.

Philip S. Foner (essay date 1982)

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SOURCE: An Introduction to On Art And Literature by José Martí: Critical Writings, edited by Philip S. Foner, translated by Elinor Randall, Monthly Review Press, 1982, pp. 13-33.

[In the following introduction to an anthology of Martí's essays on art and literature, Foner demonstrates Martí's appreciation for groundbreaking art and his belief that American artespecially Latin American artshould have a social and political function.]

In April 1880, José Martí wrote to his friend Miguel Viandi in Havana: "If you could see me struggling to dominate this beautiful but rebellious English: Three or four months more and I shall open a way for myself."1 Martí's first article in English testifies both to his remarkable ability to master the language as well as his insight as a critic of art. Written for the newly founded magazine The Hour, it was entitled "The Metropolitan Museum of Art."2 Martí's appreciation for the leading art museum in the New World comes through clearly and vividly. Thus he wrote:

New York may well be proud of its Metropolitan Museum of Art, of the precious ceramic collection and the highly interesting Japanese works to be found there. A well-arranged light adds to the real value of the objects accumulated. Old laces, ancient books, classic engravings, are placed side by side with the most remarkable products of Asiatic art. In the capacious halls everything looks clean and fresh; the mummies grin and the sarcaophagi recall memories of ancient history, not of death. Classification and division have been closely attended to, as if the director intended to prepare visitors for the study and not merely for the contemplation of treasures. 3

Martí also wrote on art in French for the New York Sun. These were translated into English for publication. In whatever language he wrote, however, Martí as an art critic did not wander into unfamiliar fields. From his visits to the museums of Spain and France, he brought to his writings on art rapidly jotted notes, ideas, and his own sound judgment. In Madrid he had the opportunity to study modern Spanish paintings, especially those by Rosales and Madrago and the work of Fortuny. In Zaragoza, moreover, Martí became acquainted with the painter Pablo Gonzalvo. Through frequent visits to Gonzalvo's studio and discussions with him on art, Martí acquired ideas that were to influence his writings. Then too, he came to know the work of Goya whose paintings were well represented in Zaragoza. Years later Martí called Goya "one of my teachers," and exclaimed: "Here is a great philosopher—this painter—a great vindicator, a great demolisher of all the infamous and terrible." 4

While in Mexico, Martí made the acquaintance of theMexican painter Manuel Ocaranza, and he spent hours at his studio watching him paint and listening to discussions of art by Ocaranza and his artistic colleagues. It was a period of intense intellectual life in Mexico, and the discussion emphasized that Mexican art should be separated from European models in order to seek its own expression. Through Ocaranza, Martí became acquainted with the work of Mexican artists and the artists themselves.

In Revista Universal, published in Mexico City, Martí commented on contemporary Mexican art. Unlike many other critics, he did not praise that which was European and denigrate that which was American. He insisted, rather, that if they wished to go forward, the American artists had to forget European models and dig into their own roots.

Because these were their traditions, they were not artificial. Of course, this did not mean that they should ignore everything that Europe had accomplished, but it did mean that Europe should cease being the only model to be imitated. 5

Here is an example of Martí's insight as an art critic, written when he was but eighteen years of age. Published in Revista Universal of August 24, 1875, Martí's article began:

In Mexico there is a prominent painter whose presence among us gladdens the few who know him, and pleases everyone who enjoys seeing the art of painting in strong and intelligent hands.

Felipe Gutiérrez paints with great brush strokes within great areas of shading. He does not dilute the light but disintegrates and contrasts it; he does not draw with lines but with experimental attacks of the brush. He does not use chiaroscuro but light and dark; a bold and luminous light and a dark filled with power and vigor. He opposes one to the other, does not reconcile them. His style is free and proper to a painter who has seen life in the canvases of Michelangelo, Ribera and Tintoretto. Gutiérrez paints rapidly, prolifically and very well. He has something of the imposing coldness of Rosales. The Spanish artist painted with nerves and muscles rather than with colors. Gutiérrez goes hurriedly down that path.

Or this in Revista Universal of December 31, 1875:

Art is a form of harmony. At times irregularity is artistic; but irregularity in painting must be logical in its fundamentals, as the whims of poetic fantasy must be logical and grouped in a unity. Monotony is a wild beast because it destroys everything, even the sanctity and customs of love. In painting, the parallel lines, symmetrical dots of color, uniform and alternating lines, geometrize the figure, vitiate the whole, and destroy the painting's grace and undulations with the harshness of straight lines. There is no beauty in rigidity: life is mobile, daring, abandoned, tender, active; the flesh has to be sensed and the nerves felt in an attitude of movement; if grief has been copied, tears must hang from the soft and silken eyelids; if fierceness has been imitated, angers must be collected upon the formidable furrowed brow. In painting, the simple is nonexistent: the first step is the beautiful, the next the sublime. A painter must not be said to be accurate, but proud, innovative, spirited and grand. 6

Art, in Martí's view, was an enjoyment for mankind,but it must also serve as a link of unity among people. It must be at the service of truth, progress, and justice. "What is art," he observed, "but the shortest way of achieving the triumph of truth, and placing it at the same time, so that it will endure and shine in hearts and minds?" Art was "not a venal adornment of kings and pontiffs, where the face of genius is barely seen, but a divine accumulation of souls, where men of all the ages meet and congregate." The true artist had to be inspired by all that elevated mankind. 7

Martí's art criticism reveals him to have been in ad-vance of his time in appreciating the great contribution of the impressionists. He understood, moreover, how difficult it was for the avant-garde painters of nineteenth-century France to overcome the all-powerful domination of the academic painters, who opposed every innovation and fresh thought of the period, bringing misery and often penury to many of the great painters of the time—Courbet, Manet, Monet, Degas, Pissarro, and Renoir—who were so often penalized for their originality and daring. Through their control of official schools, exhibitions, and patronage, the academic painters relegated the real masters of nineteenth-century French painting to obscurity; Martí tried to break this influence, and called for recognition of the truly great painters of the period. True, he appreciated that the academicians were prodigious in their technical prowess, but he saw that the impressionists were bringing art to a new and more significant horizon and would influence the entire course of painting for centuries to come. 8

Martí's comments on art in the United States are also significant. He observed that there were preparations for great artists of the future, but at the time he was writing, there was little or no North American art. Describing the "Fifty-Fifth Exhibition in the National Academy of Design," he noted the wealth of unfinished portraits, which tended to give the exhibition the appearance of a studio rather than a gallery. Upon close observation, it became evident that the important workers were not North American.

Yet, Martí observed, there was ample evidence to support the view that the United States was well on the way toward the development of its art. There were important galleries and there were the best of instructors. There were also numerous models to follow. Still as a comparatively new nation the United States had not had the time to develop a true North American art. 9

How different was Martí's evaluation of North Ameri-can writers. In an article written in 1889 for El Partido Liberal, Martí reviewed the book Jonathan and His Continent by Max O'Rell, the pen name for the French author Paul Blouet. In his review Martí dismissed the book as a superficial view of the United States. But he reserved his sharpest criticism for the French author-journalist's treatment of literature in the United States. After commenting on the book's overall superficiality, Martí wrote:

And nowhere is this deficiency and lightness more evident than in what the author says about literature, which consists of a short list of names, without any attempt at classification or comment and without the type of passing sentence in which it is understood that the modesty of the critic belies his considerable knowledge of the subject. By listing Whitman he thinks he's said it all; without knowing who Thoreau was he declares that North America has no writers who depict nature, and since he is ignorant of Emerson to the point of omitting the name of America's foremost poet, he assures us that the U.S. has not yet produced a transcendental genius. 10

Although, as we have seen in previous volumes, Martítook a keen interest in nearly every phase of American life, he was especially involved in understanding and evaluating the nation's literature. In his "literary testament," written only about a month before his death and directed to his disciple, Gonzalo de Quesada, the Cuban revolutionist revealed his concern that his writings about North American authors be well represented in the collection of his works for posterity.

These writings include seven articles or essays that deal at length with a single United States author: Ralph Waldo Emerson, Walt Whitman, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, John Greenleaf Whittier, Amos Bronson Alcott, Louisa May Alcott, and Mark Twain. But Martí also discussed Edgar Allan Poe, James Russell Lowell, Washington Irving, Henry David Thoreau, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Fitz-Greene Halleck, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Helen Hunt Jackson, and William Dean Howells. As José Antonio Portuondo, the distinguished Cuban literary critic, has pointed out: "Neither before nor after him has there been a writer of our language who has judged North American literature in such quantity and with greater awareness." 11

In Martí Escritor, published in 1945, Andrés Iduarte rates Martí's essay on Ralph Waldo Emerson one of the best Spanish-language essays of the nineteenth century and the "clue to the depth and form of Martí." 12Others, like Esther Elise Shuler, argue that Martí is so wrapped up in his subject, and is so enthusiastically identified with Emerson, that it is difficult to know where what refers to Emerson ends and what pertains to Martí begins.13 Felix Lizaso, the Marti critic, points out that the discovery of Emerson was a turning point in Martí's life.14 And, indeed, among Martí's notes, we find the following passage:

I have journeyed through much of my life and partaken of its various pleasures, but the greatest pleasure, the only absolutely pure pleasure which I have experienced up to this point, was the one I felt that afternoon when I looked out from my room to the prostrate city and envisioned the future, thinking about Emerson. 15

The Emerson essay was written shortly after Emerson's death in Concord on April 27, 1882. Yet this was only the most extended treatment of Martí devoted to Emerson. The number of other tributes, comments in his notebooks,16 references in many of his articles, and translations of several poems17 and fragments of verse by Emerson, reveal that Martí devoted more time, effort, and interest to Emerson than to any other North American author. Just when Martí began to take an interest in Emerson is difficult to establish. There are no references to Emerson in his writings until 1881, that is, until Martí was a resident in the United States. Lizaso has suggested that Martí may have had knowledge of the sage of Concord prior to that time.18 But it is evident that Martí was convinced that to anyone interested in the life and mind and imagination of America, Ralph Waldo Emerson is indispensable.

Ivan Schulman, a specialist in Martí's use of symbols, points out that Martí employed his loftiest symbols in writing of Emerson. Emerson is likened to a mountain, the symbol of a superior being. Or he is typified by the words "eagle" and "pine," two symbols which represent color and greatness. "Star" is used as a symbol of ideal human qualities in Emerson, and "butterfly of fire" is used to represent the free flight of Emerson's artistic inspiration. The poet's verses are symbolized with "wings of gold." Schulman also notes that Martí was like Emerson in his implicit preference for symbols of nature. He points to light, sun, and stars as three major symbols used by both Emerson and Martí. There is even evidence, according to Schulman, of Emerson's concept of analogies in nature being incorporated into Martí's thinking. 19

To Marti, Emerson was a monarch, a noble lion, a giant in the realm of ideas. Reading Emerson filled one's mind with light, set one's soul ablaze. His pages were radiant. For Martí, Emerson embodied purity and virtue; his works were lucid and pure. When Emerson said, "The soul is the perceiver and revealer of truth," Martí viewed it as the utterance of a seer. He did not consider Emerson a member of the Transcendentalist group of New England, but a lone prophet rising in America to teach mankind. Emerson was a man who saw the essence of the human spirit as evident in all peoples, a man whose spirit would serve as a salvation for the selfish interests at work in the United States. 20

What Martí admired most in Emerson was his complete independence of mind form the chains of the past and established institutions. He read with joy how Emerson boldly attacked tradition, institutions, public opinion—all the external authorities other Americans were concerned to establish—which impeded the development of the individual imagination and with it republican virtue. That which so shocked the Harvard ministry was noble to Martí. He could heartily agree with Emerson's observations in the "Divinity School Address": "Wherever a man comes, there comes revolution. The old is for slaves. When a man comes, all books are legible, all things transparent, all religions are forms. He is religious. Man is the wonderworker." Such doctrines challenged the basic religious and social beliefs of conservative New England Unitarians, but they thrilled Martí. Even before John Dewey, Marti heralded Emerson as "the Philosopher of Democracy." 21

Then too, Martí considered Emerson as justifying his own theory that man was glorified by being allowed to partake of the universal truth. Emerson's concept of the Over-Soul appealed to Martí who was a religious man by nature but anticlerical in opinion. Both believed in an impersonal God. Martí accepted Emerson's formulation of the Over-Soul as the cornerstone of his philosophy. Emerson defined God as "the soul of the world whole, the wise science; the universal beauty, to which every part and particle is equally related, the eternal one," a definition that Martí accepted. He accepted, too, Emerson's assertion of the divinity of nature, the morality of the universe, and his celebration of the individual who stood in primary relations to the world and refused to take life secondhand. 22

One aspect of Emerson's thought that appears to have had particular appeal for Marti was the idea that the poet might discover truth before the scientist did. Martí did not denigrate the role of science; indeed, as is made abundantly clear in the volume of his writings on education, he insisted that science be incorporated into the educational curriculum beginning with elementary school.23 But he believed that the universe presented a challenge for both men of science and men of letters, and that the latter were often more understanding of the former. "When the cycle of science is complete and it knows all there is to know, it will not know more than the spirit knows today," he wrote. In a June, 1883 article in La America, Martí mentioned Emerson's contribution to Tyndall's thinking as an example of the insight into the reality of nature which a poet might provide. How the poet might even anticipate the scientist was pointed to by Martí when he cited the following lines, which prefaced the second edition of Nature, as evidence of Emerson anticipating the theory of evolution: "And striving to be man, the worm/mounts through all the spires of form." In La Nación of October 22, 1890, describing the various types of learning that Chautauqua offered, Martí mentioned an instance where a man stood up to say: "In my town we've always said the poets see the truth before anyone else and this conversation proves it because men are no more than grown worms, which is what Emerson said before Darwin, when he said that in his struggle to be man the worm rises from form to form. . . ." 24

But perhaps Martí was most deeply impressed by the fact that Emerson never critically capitulated to the worshipers of science and technology, and he could agree wholeheartedly with Emerson's observation in Nature that "the use of commodity, regarded by itself, is mean and squalid . . . a thing is good only so far as it serves." Here again Martí was overjoyed as he read Emerson's bold assertion in his lecture "The Poet" that it was the poet who had the power to control technology, integrating expanding technology with the natural world by the force of the creative imagination. In one of his many references to Emerson in his notebooks, Martí cites this comment about critics from Emerson's "Poetry and Imagination": "The critic destroys; the poet says nothing but what helps somebody." 25

Martí's famous essay on Emerson begins with the writer tremulous with excitement and apprehension at the prospect of discussing such a great man—a man who embodied the characteristics Martí valued most: integrity, humanity, independence, morality, and idealism. It closes with a discussion of Emerson's death. Martí called it "victorious," and wrote that Emerson's hearse was like a "triumphal Chariot." Emerson's death was surrounded by symbols of the victorious warrior: palms strewn below and swords raised on high. Emerson's death was a return of the finite to the infinite. Death was not frightening to one who had lived nobly. "He will be immortal who deserves to be." Hence Martí saw Emerson's death as a victory and not a loss to mankind. 26

Martí made Emerson part of nearly all his work, and because of him, Emerson became a living person in Latin America. Through Martí, the current of Emerson's transcendental and universal thought was spread to Spanish America. 27

José Martí was the first to reveal to Hispanic America the figure of Walt Whitman, America's "Poet of Democracy." Rubén Darío, the Nicaraguan poet and undisputed leader of "modernismo" in Spanish-American poetry, pointed out that Martí "made you see a prestigious, patriarchal Walt Whitman, the biblical author of Leaves of Grass, long before France knew him through Sarrazin." While Darío may have overlooked critics like Mme. Benitzon, Louis Etienne, Jules La Forgue, whose work preceded Sarrazin's writings on Whitman, he was correct in noting that Martí was the first to write in Spanish about the "good grey poet." 28

Beginning as early as 1881, Martí featured brief comments on Whitman in his journalistic articles. But it was his 1887 essay honoring the American poet that is Martí's most important contribution to the study of Whitman. Published in both El Partido Liberal and La Nación, it was later reprinted by other periodicals in Latin America. The essay was written following Whitman's lecture on Abraham Lincoln in New York City which Marti attended. In developing his essay, Martí used the Lincoln lecture at several points. However, the first work by Whitman Martí mentioned is Leaves of Grass, which is not listed by name but merely introduced by the notice that this "astonishing book" was prohibited. Noting that in 1887 Whitman's greatness was still unappreciated in the United States, Martí observed that natural greatness is overlooked because people seek out the petty differences among themselves, rather than recognizing the essential and eternal elements held in common. Because modern education failed to teach how to distinguish among the teachings of different philosophical schools, when the public came face to face with a sincere individual like Walt Whitman, they refused to recognize that here was a superior human being. Martí emphasized Whitman's lone stand by comparing it to Gladstone's stand in Parliament when he rose to ask for a more just government for Ireland. Both men, he notes, resembled an invincible mastiff surrounded by a crowd of dogs.

Martí emphasized that Whitman stood far above the petty philosophers, the formula poets ("puny poets"), and the literary mannequins. He wrote a poetry fit for the new life in a new continent—a poetry to match the vigor of his land. He was a "natural" man who lived out in the open, a "true, sonorous and loving" man because he lived by his belief that men are brothers, and who sang the glories of the world and of man. In spite of the lack of good taste he often displayed, Whitman merited study and the widest reading because he was the most daring, inclusive, and free poet of his time. 29

In the writing of Whitman's poem "Calamus," Martí defended the forceful, direct, and corporal language and chided those who saw in this poetry the reflection of a homosexual love. He believed Whitman was singing the glory of comradeship and exalting the love of friendship.30 He did not find the language lascivious, but saw it as an earthly form to express the ideal. Pointing to "Children of Adam," with its exaltation of the love of man for woman, Martí noted that Whitman was not brutal; on the contrary, he was one of those few men who could combine virility and tenderness. Again, in discussing the love poems in "By the Roadside," Martí observed that in superior men extreme virility and a feminine tenderness are found united.

To readers in Latin America unfamiliar with Whitman's poetry, Martí sought to explain its novelty of form and structure. He noted that the rhythm in Whitman's poetry was not in rhymes and accents, but in the strophes themselves, where Whitman distributed his ideas in great musical groups. Martí added that this was the natural poetic form for a people who built not stone by stone, but by tremendous blocks. In short, Whitman did not use rhyme because the subject would not allow such limitations. His metre was irregular because he was trying to reproduce what he saw and felt in nature. Whitman's method was to reproduce the various elements of his composition in the same "disorder" in which they appeared in nature. He denied Whitman's apparent lack of rhythm. He compared Whitman's language to a patriarchal song, to a row of beef carcasses hung up in a butcher's shop, to a brutal kiss, to the sound of a dry hide bursting open in the sun, but observed that his verses always had the rhythmic movement of the sea wave. 31

Martí's most specific comment on Whitman's style and method came in regard to "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd," the song of mourning composed by Whitman for Lincoln, which he considered to be perhaps one of the most beautiful productions of contemporary poetry. Martí interpreted the meaning of this "mystical threnody" as the mystery of death and the sublimity of love, and he agreed with Whitman's concept of death as a redemption, the "strong delivress." Marti showed how the clouds, the stars and moon, and the solitary bird in the marsh all contributed to the melancholy mood of the poem, how nature accompanied the journey of the coffin, and how the whole earth seemed to join in the mourning.32 Martí compared the poem to "The Raven" by Edgar Allan Poe, and concluded that Whitman's "mystical threnody" was more beautiful, strange, and profound. 33

Martí's essay is significant in a way that goes beyond his attempt to place Whitman in literature. For in doing so, he gave his own theory of poetry and literature. He believed Whitman was representative of the qualities and tendencies of his age. He noted his own agreement with Whitman's theory that a poet must be commensurate with society, must, moreover, have an ethical purpose. To Martí, poetry was a social force vastly more important than industry to humankind, since the latter gives people the manner of subsisting, while the former gives the desire and strength for life. 34

Whitman's fervent love for humankind, his respect for the heroic, his scorn for cowardice and envy, his identification with every person regardless of race, creed, color, or social standing,35 certainly influenced Martí' s high regard for the poet. ". . . I love men like Walt Whitman . . . ," he rhapsodized.36 Martí saw Whitman as the poet of democracy in the United States, but he also viewed him as the poet of the world and the future—a future of a new, just, and democratic era. Martí appreciated values in Whitman that were disapproved even by many North American critics of the times, and saw him as one of America's greatest writers. José Antonio Portuondo notes that Martí probably read the critical chapter on Whitman by Clarence Day in his 1885 Poets of America, and that in his essay, Martí may have been answering some of Stedman's objections to the poet.37 In any event, Martí's essay on Walt Whitman is of singular importance, and there are few contemporary evaluations as valuable. Martí introduced Whitman to Spanish Americans, and in so doing, was to exert an important influence on the Modernist movement in poetry. For not only was Martí's essay the first written in Spanish about Whitman, but it remained the undisputed source of reference for many years for the Modernist poets. 38

Just as Martí introduced Emerson and Whitman to Spanish America, it was he, as Ivan Schulman notes, "who first popularized the literary productions of Samuel L. Clemens throughout the Spanish-speaking world."39 In the whole span of Martí's writings about the United States (1880-1890), there is a growing appreciation for the works of Mark Twain. Four of Twain's books (A Tramp Abroad, Innocents Abroad, Roughing It, and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court) are mentioned by Martí at various times, and there were notes about three of them. Martí gave a plot summary of A Connecticut Yankee, described several of the episodes, and offered his interpretation of the book. He described a passage from A Tramp Abroad, and also one from The Innocents Abroad, and gave a short sketch of Twain's varied and active life as a steamboat pilot, miner, and printer, described him as a public speaker, and made several references to him in his notes. In one place, Martí wrote in his notebook: "Mark Twain—humorista americano, descriptor del Oeste (American humorist, describer of the West)—autor del 'Mighty Dollar' (teatro) (author of the 'Mighty Dollar' [theater])—Tramp through (sic) EuropeCol. Dick and Col Jack. . . ."40 Other notebook references concerned the success of Innocents Abroad. Martí observed that this book which ultimately brought the publishers $75,000, was at first reluctantly considered for publication.41 Another notation read (in English): "Innocents Abroad was black with handling before it was put into print." 42

Martí the critic was at his best when he could honestly admire and praise a person. In Mark Twain he loved the homespun qualities which endeared the American humorist to the people. After he had heard one of Twain's lectures in New York, he told of the lecturer's popularity with his audience. He described his great head with its mane of white hair, his eyes which showed "experience, profoundness, and slyness," his long and eagle-like nose, his martial moustaches, and his hunched shoulders. With his way of giving detail that brings his characters to life, Marti described how Mark Twain would wink his eyes "as if to see better, or to prevent his thoughts from being guessed." 43

Martí, however, did not seem overly enthused by Twain's humor, and the impression Twain, the lecturer, left on him does not appear to have been very favorable. But he was deeply moved and impressed by Mark Twain as the champion of social reform.44 He was convinced that Mark Twain's sureness in writing came from his familiarity with many levels of life, and he was far in advance of many contemporary critics in seeing that the purpose of the "sharp Southern novelist" was to present all the contradictions and hypocrisies in contemporary American society. His style was well suited for this purpose, Martí noted, adding: "He draws with charcoal, but with swift and certain lines. He understands the power of adjectives and he piles them on a character in a way that the man described starts walking as if he were alive." 45

The book of Mark Twain that Martí most admired was A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, which he reviewed in January 1890 for La Nación, and which he described that same month in a letter to Gonzalo de Quesada as "a service to humanity, with light and characteristic language and a deep and meaningful message."46 Martí correctly saw A Connecticut Yankee as an outcry against injustice, hypocrisy, and the abuses of power and wealth, and also saw the application of its message to his own day and age. He was enthusiastic, too, about the episode at the end of the novel which described the defeat of the 25,000 Knights. As he wrote to Gonzalo de Quesada: ". . . fifty-two young men (not men of years, preoccupied and corrupted), helped the Yankee to defeat twenty-five thousand fully armed Knights, who died taking knight-errantry with them."47 Ivan Schulman notes that Martí' s "interest in the fight of the few against the powerful many reveals the hand of the revolutionary faced with the overwhelming odds of the Spanish forces in Cuba." 48

When most American criticism was content to com-pare Twain's book to Sir Thomas Malory's Morte d'Arthur, Martí recognized the relationship of the Yankee to Don Quixote.49 He noted that Quixote was a "wise and painful portrait of a man's life" while the Connecticut Yankee with its honest indignation against oppression and poverty, is "a fight, cowboy style, with a lasso and gun." Still the Yankee, he assured Gonzalo de Quesada, could stand on its own feet and Twain owed not "a whit" to either Cervantes or Jules Verne. "It is a book of humor which calls forth tears." 50

Martí did not regard Mark Twain as one of the major writers, but he did have high regard for his orginality and power of description. He credited Twain with having experienced life deeply and undergone suffering, two factors Martí believed were especially important to the development of a mature writer.51 He had been put off at times by Twain's humor, regarding his jokes as "of the coarse frontier type." But all this faded when he read A Connecticut Yankee, and he was so taken with the work that at one point he said: "There are paragraphs in Mark Twain's book which make you want to set out for Hartford, to shake his hand." 52

It is probable that the first North American author with whom Martí was acquainted was Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Martí appears to have been familiar with Longfellow during his boyhood days in Cuba, for it was his belief that his teacher, Rafael Maria de Mendive, studied and read this American author, and the library in Mendive's school included a book by Longfellow with a dedication by the North American poet.53 Later, in 1877, several years before he came to the United States, Martí referred indirectly to Longfellow. In writing of a magazine about Guatemala, which he planned to publish, Martí commented on the wealth of natural resources in the land, and continued: "Thus, when the first Christian prayer was raised heavenward from Plymouth, and when only the sorrowful laments of Hiawatha were to be heard in the North American forests, the extraordinary and fertile resources, which now sustain the people of the American union with miraculous development, were lying in neglect."

Longfellow, the author of "Hiawatha," was also one of the first North American authors to be mentioned in Martí's writing about the United States itself. It was published in La Opinión Nacional on March 22, 1882, and the part on Longfellow began with a reference to the death of President James B. Garfield. Martí went on to say that now another happy and famous man was near the doors of death. He wrote: "A cancer gnaws at the face of Longfellow, who four days ago completed his seventy-fifth year." 54

Martí published two "literary portraits" of Longfellow.The overall message of the two articles was that Longfellow was a gentle, kind, good poet who wrote verses notable for their ability to enchant. Since Martí believed that the ability to delight the reader was an important function of poetry, he considered this quality in Longfellow as justifying his being ranked as a great writer. But not to be ranked in the same category as Emerson and Whitman. Martí noted that Longfellow lacked the suffering necessary to produce the purest lyricism. This made Longfellow chiefly a writer of pleasantries while Martí believed that literature should be much more than this. It must and should be at the service of humankind. 55


1 José Martí, Obras Completas, Trópico edition, vol. XXV, ed. Gonzalo de Quesada y Miranda (La Habana, 1936-1949), p. 69. Hereinafter referred to as Trópico edition.

2 Martí, who was casting about for work in New York, was introduced to members of the staff of The Hour by a fellow Cuban, Guillermo Collazo. Like Martí, Collazo lodged at the home of Carmita Mantilla.

3 For the entire article, see below "The Metropolitan Museum of Art."

4 For the article on Goya, see below pp. 106-12.

5 Gonzalo de Quesada y Miranda, Facetas de Martí, (La Habana, 1922), p. 57; Félix Lizaso, Martí Critico de Art, (La Habana, 1953), pp. 7-9.

6 For the complete text of the articles in Revista Universal, see below pp. 35-73.

7Trajectory and Actuality of Martí, Center of Studies on Martí, (La Habana, 1961), p. 38.

8See below "A New Exhibition of Impressionist Paintings," pp. 118-24.

9 Trópico edition, vol. XL, p. 153.

10 José Martí, Obras Completas, vol. XII, (Havana, 1949, Editorial Nacional de Cuba), pp. 151-53. Hereinafter referred to as Editorial Nacional de Cuba.

11 José Antonio Portuondo, José Martí, critica literarios (Washington, D.C., 1953), p. 2. The essay on Bronson Alcott appears in On Education: Articles on Educational Theory and Pedagogy, and Writings for Children from The Age of Gold by José Martí, trans. Elinor Randall, Ed. with an introduction and notes, by Philip S. Foner (New York, 1979), pp. 47-53. Several of the United States authors were treated by Martí in relation to events of their time. Whittier and Lowell were mentioned in connection with the centennial celebrations common to the America of the 1880s. Harriet Beecher Stowe was lauded chiefly for her contribution to the antislavery movement in Uncle Tom's Cabin, and Helen Hunt Jackson was hailed for her concern over the injustice done to the American Indians. Martí's remarks on William Dean Howells came mainly in connection with his courageous stand during the Haymarket Affair in which he pleaded for clemency for the Chicago anarchists.

12 Andrés Iduarte, Martí, Escritor (Mexico City, 1945), p. 163.

13 Esther Elise Shuler, "José Martí: su crítica de algunos autores norteamericanos," Archivo José Martí, vol. XVI (Habana, 1950), p. 175. Shuler points out that in matters of style, Emerson and Martí were often alike, so that in some respects, Martí's tribute to Emerson sounds like Emerson himself. (Ibid., pp. 176-77.) In short, Martí often saw with Emerson's eyes.

14 Félix Lizaso, "Emerson visto por Martí," Humanismo, (Havana, 1954), vol. HI, no. 23, p. 37.

15 José Martí, Obras Completas, Editorial Nacional de Cuba, vol. XXII (Havana, 1964-1966), p. 323.

16 Many of Martí's notebooks contain references to Emerson, and while they are brief, they are revealing. Thus he wrote in one place: "From Emerson—celestial sentences." Martí also included a number of direct quotations in English from Emerson in his notes, including: "The distinction and end of a soundly constituted man is his labor." (Obras Completas, vol. XXI, p. 39, 391.)

17 As late as 1950 it was believed that Martí had translated only one Emerson poem—the one found in The Age of Gold ("cado uno a su oficio" "To Each His Own"). However, additional translations of Emerson's poems by Martí have been discovered since then and are included in Obras Completas. All told, Martí undertook to translate at least five of Emerson's poems.

18 Lizaso, op. cit., p. 39.

19 Ivan Schulman, Símbolo y color en la obra de José Martí, 2nd ed., (Madrid, 1970), pp. 88-89, 109, 134, 150-51, 160-62. Esther Elise Shuler, Félix Lizaso, and Manuel Pedro González are among other writers who have noticed similarities between Emerson and Martí. González emphasizes that "Both epitomized and symbolized the finest human values of their respective peoples." (Manuel Pedro González, José Martí: Epic Chronicler of the United States in the Eighties [Chapel Hill, North Carolina, 1953], pp. 15-16.)

20 In a June 1887 article for El Partido Liberal, Martí contrasted Charles Dudley Warner's narrow-minded approach to Mexico and the Mexican people with Emerson's universality. In his account of a trip to Mexico, Warner was unable to sympathize with the country and its people. Martí attributed this to Warner's desire to judge everything by North American standards. Emerson, on the other hand, saw the human spirit evident in all peoples. (Obras Completas, vol. VII, pp. 54-55.)

21 Joseph Ratner, editor, John Dewey, Characters and Events: Popular Essays in Social and Political Philosophy, vol. I, (New York, 1929), pp. 75-76.

22Obras Completas, vol. XXII, pp. 141-42.

23See José Martí, On Education, ed. Philip S. Foner.

24Obras Completas, vol. XXI, p. 232; vol. XXIII, pp. 17, 39.

25Obras Completas, vol. XXI, p. 381; ed. Edward Waldo Emerson, The Complete Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson, (Boston, 1903-04), vols. XI, p. 442; vol. VIII, p. 37.

26See below, pp. 149-67

27 Ethel Ríos, "José Martí: A Study of the Biographical Essays," unpublished M.A. thesis, Columbia University, 1947, p. 33.

28 Rubén Darío, Los Raios, Madrid, 1918, p. 238. Maurice Mendelson, the leading Soviet authority on Walt Whitman, observes: "The Cuban revolutionary José Martí was the first Latin American to respond to the poet's verse as a call for freedom." (Life and Work of Walt Whitman: A Soviet View [Moscow, 1976], p. 311.)

29See below pp. 168-85 for the essay.

30 Most modern Whitman scholars, insist, however, that the earliest, best, and most memorable love poetry of Walt Whitman was written to a male lover. (See, for example, Gay Wilson Allen, The Solitary Singer [New York, 1962], and Ivan Marki, The Trial of the Poet: An Interpretation of the First Edition of "Leaves of Grass" (New York, 1976). In his study, The Homosexual Tradition in American Poetry (Austin, Texas, 1979), Robert K. Marten argues that Walt Whitman was the first to provide a voice for the homosexual in America.

31See below p. 183.

32 Maurice Mendelson, praises Martí for having "faithfully conveyed the mood of the work," and adds: "But the poem contains more than just funeral tones. It does not make one think of death alone. Even on this occasion, the poem remains faithful to his life-affirming view of the world, to his love for people and his awareness that the people will live for ever." (Mendelson op. cit., p. 238.)

33 Some critics have argued that Martí's comparison is somewhat strained since the two poems are radically unlike in subject matter. Poe's is in no sense an elegy as is Whitman's. (Anne Owen Fountain, "José Martí and North American Authors," unpublished Ph.D. thesis, Columbia University, 1973, p. 85-86.)

34 Trópico edition, vol. XV, p. 196.

35 For a critical view of Whitman's position on slavery and black Americans which asserts that "Whitman was a product of his times who was not able to truly transcend the rampant anti-black sentiment of his American society," see Ken Peeples, Jr., "The Paradox of the 'Good Gray Poet,' Walt Whitman on Slavery and the Black Man," Phyton, vol. XXXV, no. 1, pp. 22-32. However, Maurice Mendelson demonstrates the depth and profundity of Whitman's antislavery and abolitionist convictions, and argues that his antislavery sentiments were responsible for his being fired from a series of New York journals. (op. cit., pp. 132-39.) For a similar approach to this issue, see Joseph Ray Rubin, The Historic Whitman (University Park, Pa., 1973). Martí did not know that as editor of the Brooklyn Eagle, Whitman not only supported the war against Mexico in 1846, accused Horace Greeley, who opposed the war in the New York Tribune of "aiding and abetting the enemy in his 'open advocacy of the Mexican cause,'" but also wrote: "The more we reflect on the matter of annexation as involving a part of Mexico, or even the main bulk of that Republic, the more no doubts and obstacles resolve themselves away, the more plausible appears that at first glance most difficult consummation. . . ." (Allen, op. cit., pp. 82-84; Cleveland Rodgers and John Black, eds., The Gathering of the Forces: Editorials, Essays, Literary and Dramatic Reviews and Other Material Written by Walt Whitman as Editor of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle in 1846 and 1847, vol. I [New York and London, 1920], p. 130.)

36Obras Completas, vol. XX, p. 132.

37 Portuondo, op. cit., pp. 57-59. Portuondo notes a number of differences in approach to Whitman by Stedman and Martí. Thus while Martí appreciated Whitman's announcement of a new, just, and democratic era, Stedman complained of Whitman's emphasis on only the subordinate, the poor, and the humble classes. And while Martí wrote of Whitman's "vast and ardent love," the American critic displayed a distaste for Whitman's lack of restraint in speaking of sex and physical love.

38 For a summary of Walt Whitman's influence on Hispanic American poetry, see John E. Englekirk, "Notes on Whitman in Spanish America," Hispanic Review, vol. VI (1938), pp. 133-38. Englekirk comments on Martí's essay on Whitman, but confused Whitman's poem on Lincoln "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd" with "O Captain! My Captain!" For a more recent study of the subject, see Fernando Alegría, Walt Whitman in Hispano America, (Mexico, 1954).

39 Ivan Schulman, "José Martí and Mark Twain: A Study of Literary Sponsorship," Symposium, vol. XV (Syracuse, 1961), p. 104.

40Obras Completas, vol. XXI. p. 231.

41 Ibid., p. 397.

42 Ibid., p. 420.

43 José Martí, Obras Completas, editorial Lex, vol. I, (La Habana, 1946), p. 1577. Hereinafter referred to as editorial Lex.

44 For a study of this aspect of Mark Twain, see Philip S. Foner, Mark Twain: Social Critic (New York, 1968).

45See below p. 191.

46Obras Completas, vol. XX, p. 363.

47 Ibid. For a different analysis of the novel's ending, see Everett Carter, "The Meaning of A Conecticut Yankee," American Literature, vol. I, (November, 1978), pp. 437-40.

48 Schulman, "José Martí and Mark Twain," op. cit., p. 111.

49 Ibid., pp. 108-09.

50Obras Completas, Vol. XX, p. 363.

51 Ríos, op. cit., p. 210.

52Obras Completas, vol. XIII, p. 460; Iduarte, op. cit., p. 55.

53Obras Completas, vol. VIII, p. 105. The reference itself is not dated, but Féliz Lizaso points out that on April 15, 1877, Martí announced that he would publish the Guatemalan Review, (José Martí, Martyr of Cuban Independence, trans. Esther E. Shuler [Albuquerque, New Mexico, 1953], p. 256.)

54Obras Completas, vol. XIII, p. 225.

55 Ríos, op. cit., p. 141.

John M. Kirk (essay date 1983)

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SOURCE: "Political System," and "Moral Foundation," in José Martí: Mentor of the Cuban Nation, University Presses of Florida, 1983, pp. 65-85, 86-105.

[In the following essays, Kirk examines two prominent aspects of Martí's thought: the first essay details the republic that Martí envisioned for the Cuban political system; the second describes the new Cuban citizen that Martí believed independence would create.]

Having outlined the origins of Martí's political career and the principal influences on the development of his thought, the type of society that José Martí aspired to introduce into an independent Cuba can be examined in greater detail. Any attempt to outline the basic political structure desired by Martí for Cuba is facilitated by eliminating at the outset those aspects of government that Martí's views definitely, and most obviously, forbade. Although this may be somewhat self-evident, it must be stated that Martí wanted an essentially republican form of government for his patria. Having already experienced first-hand the injustice of an oppressive monarchy in Cuba, he was determined that this form of government should never again be instituted on the island.

His campaign to liberate Cuba was therefore based on a very clear understanding that a monarchial government was unjust as well as archaic and would not be tolerated in Cuba. His thoughts on the subject were exemplified by an article published in the Caracas newspaper La Opinión Nacional on September 17, 1881. Léon Gambetta had recently been elected Prime Minister of France, and Martí was clearly overjoyed with the results. "This is the conquest by modern man: to be the hand and not the flour being pounded; to be the horseman and not the steed; to be one's own king and priest; to govern oneself ([Obras completas] XIV, 58).1 France was indeed fortunate, Martí emphasized, "because this people does not have a king, it is indeed a kingly people" (XIV, 58). In short, as he wrote in 1877, "the prime duty of people at this time, is to be people of their time" (VII, 97).

However, Martí did not blindly accept the republican system per se, nor did he apparently intend to base the Cuban Republic on any particular model then in existence. Martí had observed the frequent abuse of republican principles in other parts of the world—in Spain, in various countries of Latin America, and most noticeably in the United States, where he spent so many years. His report on the behind-the-scenes activities of Práxedes Sagasta in Spain summarized what Martí saw as the many potential abuses facing any nascent republic.

Sagasta, a shrewd individual . . . is undoubtedly battling in the shade of the monarchy, in order to prepare the republic's advent. But it is not an energetic, practical, active republic that he seeks . . . but rather a nominal, repressive republic—heterogeneous and fleeting. (XIV, 37)

Martí was therefore well aware that the republican system did not constitute an automatic answer to all national problems. It was quite simply that he considered such a form of government to offer the best foundation on which to build his desired society, in order to make it, like Gambetta's France, "un pueblo-rey" ("a kingly people").

As well as being a firm republican, Martí was also convinced that the government he hoped to institute in Cuba would be a civil one, entirely free of any vestige of military control. This danger had to be avoided at all costs; Martí realized it could ultimately lead to a form of oppression not unlike that which he had witnessed under Spanish rule in Cuba. In a letter to his friend Manuel A. Mercado written on November 10, 1877, Martí vividly described the necessarily antimilitaristic nature of any viable government in Cuba. "The power enjoyed by republics should only be in the hands of civilians. All sabers tend to injure. But the tails of dress coats can scarcely be used as whips. This is the way it shall be" (XX, 37).

Seven years later Martí was to see this very danger loom ominously before him as he made preparations for the liberation of the island. His principal associates in the venture were Máximo Gómez and Antonio Maceo, both of whom were popular military heroes because of their active participation in the 1868-78 struggle against Spain. By 1884, Martí was the accepted leader of the Cuban immigrants in New York; therefore, his assistance was greatly needed by Gómez and Maceo. Martí originally appears to have respected their geniune patriotic intent although he gradually came to suspect that both men were in fact motivated by the idea of their own personal gains after independence had been won. As a result of his disillusionment, Martí reluctantly—for in effect it meant at this point the collapse of his goals for an independent Cuba—withdrew his support from the campaign. His letter to Máximo Gómez in October of 1884 showed his displeasure with what he interpreted as their selfish desire to exploit the revolutionary struggle of the Cuban people for their own personal benefit.

It is my determination not to contribute one whit, through blind love to an idea on which I am staking my life, to bring a regime of personal despotism to my country—something that would be more shameful and disastrous than the political despotism it is presently burdened with. . . . You do not found a nation, General, the way you command an army camp. (I, 177)

The bravery of Martí's stand on this issue should not be underestimated. Not only was he forced to postpone his planned campaign for the liberation of Cuba in 1884, but Martí also incurred the wrath of the majority of the Cuban revolutionaries living in the United States. Martí was subsequently accused of being a megalomaniac, prepared to halt indefinitely the entire revolutionary struggle simply because he was jealous of the way in which Gómez and Maceo were taking charge of the expedition. In actual fact, a careful examination of Martí's pronouncements concerning all military governments, both before and after the incident, shows that his attitude was constant throughout his revolutionary career. At all times Martí regarded military control as being essentially incompatible with a true form of republican government.

Martí was well aware that the responsibilities and duties inherent in fairly governing a country constituted an exceptionally difficult task, one that could only be undertaken by an experienced and honest political leader. For, as he noted on another occasion, "there is no task more complicated, more subtle, than that of governing; absolutely nothing that requires more skill, submissiveness, and learning" (XIII, 106). Consequently, career military men, because of their very background, were far removed from a proper understanding of the intricacies and compromises needed to convince, rather than order, the members of the society to comply with official policies. Referring to the presidency of General Ulysses Grant, an excellent military tactician but a poor political leader, Martí described how the general typified the dangers of the career soldier turned politician.

He would chew up frontiers at the same time he silently bit on his tobacco. The presidential chair seemed to him to be a horse to mount; the Nation, a regiment; all citizens, recruits . . . he would imagine the grandeur of the Ceasars, and intimately loved his country, the way a Roman victor loved his golden chariot. (XIII, 82)

Though Martí accepted wholeheartedly that the military had an extremely important role to play in the winning of independence for Cuba, at the same time he clearly stipulated that after the triumph of the liberation movement all military power was to be transferred to the civil authorities.

Having determined that José Martí envisaged both a republican and civil form of government for an independent Cuba, the type of political life that he hoped to implement in the Republic must be considered, in particular the relationship between the government and the people, as well as the roles and obligations expected of them both. It must also be ascertained exactly how Martí interpreted the emotion-laden term "democracy" and whether he expressly supported a system whereby all citizens would vote in regular elections or whether he planned a selective democracy in which only some Cubans fulfilling certain conditions (wealth, revolutionary background, education, etc.) would be allowed a voice in government. Based on such an examination it will be possible to determine if Martí's thoughts on the desired democratic society were vague and loosely worded or actually constituted a consistent and well-planned reform program.

Surprisingly enough, and despite his early revolutionary determination to liberate Cuba from Spanish oppression, few if any references to the idea of democracy appear in Martí's work written during his younger years. Spanish domination of the island was so ruthless, the Cuban people as a whole had such little confidence in their own abilities to govern the homeland, and there were so many immediate injustices to condemn that Martí understandably concentrated his attention on the immediate goal of defeating the Spanish forces. However desirable a democratic government may have appeared to him, he realized that any opposition group had to concentrate on a convincing military defeat of the Spanish Administration as its first objective. Martí therefore devoted himself religiously to this necessary first step in the liberation process.

The first major references to the theory and practice of democracy to be found in Martí's Obras completas date from his arrival in Mexico in 1875. It was then that he discovered the government of President Lerdo de Tejada, which he viewed as a fair approximation to the democratic ideal. At the same time Martí was aware that the shady maneuvers of General Porfirio Díaz, whom he considered both ruthlessly ambitious and fully intent upon wresting the government from Lerdo by whatever means he deemed necessary, could very well rob Mexico of all social progress made in that country since the presidency of Benito Juárez.

Consequently, in an article significantly entitled "Catecismo democrático" ("Democratic Catechism"), published by the Mexican newspaper El Federalista in December of 1876, Martí left no doubts as to his wholehearted support of the democratic process. He vehemently denounced all military takeovers of the kind advanced by Porfirio Díaz as a means of furthering his own ambitions, while also warning that if a caudillo of this type were appointed, the country would suffer greatly. Martí therefore urged all Mexicans not to support their candidates with weapons, since this would only plunge Mexico into a state of senseless anarchy from which, he correctly predicted, a selfish and militaristic regime would emerge. Instead he advised them to follow the alternative solution afforded by the next election, when they could vote for the leader of their choice. This was of fundamental importance for Martí who claimed: "The will of all citizens, peacefully expressed—this is the source that leads to true republics" (VIII, 54). Thus in a country that possessed the necessary electoral machinery for effecting a meaningful political change by truly representative means, as Martí conceived Mexico in the mid-1870s to be, this type of military takeover was, for him, totally unwarranted and unacceptable.

Martí's interest in the practice of democracy, awakened by his stay in Mexico, was further strengthened after his arrival in the United States in 1880. However, from that time on, though he was still in favor of the theory of democracy, his appreciation of the practical application of that theory—at least in the North American context—was highly critical. He contrasted the victories resulting from a democratic election in Mexico with those won by force of arms, writing for La Nación of Buenos Aires in 1885. "There, using an army of folded ballot papers, a victory was achieved, one that was more swift and more complete than has ever been won by force of arms" (X, 123).

When describing the practice of democracy in North America, at times he accepted with reservations but more often he roundly condemned the fraudulent practices surrounding the polling booth. Writing for La Opinión Nacional in 1881, for example, he criticized severely the phenomenon of "bossism," the controlling of politics by influential party leaders.

The despicable "boss" was described earlier; the ringleader of the party; the one who prepares the elections, twisting them, taking advantage of them, handing them on a plate to his friends but denying them to his foes—and selling them to his opponents; the person who holds sway over the electoral commissions; the same one who demands financial contributions of employees, enabling him to bring about the elections, which will keep them in their jobs. (IX, 97)

What is perhaps a fair summary of Martí's ambivalent approach is his report written for La Nación in 1885, cited above. While admitting the many obvious injustices that resulted from the irregularities at the poll, Martí still considered this unfortunate system infinitely more acceptable than the total lack of democracy to be found at that time in Cuba. His conclusion was that such corrupt practices were regrettable, but the franchise at least constituted a step in the right direction: "Oh indeed, many votes are sold; but there are more that are not!" (X, 123).

From his severe criticisms of political life in the United States, several important deductions can be made concerning the type of political practices that Martí advocated implementing in an independent Cuba. What had to be avoided at all costs in the patria was the selfish approach to politics, which Martí interpreted as typifying the attitude of the U.S. electorate at large and in particular that of both major political parties. He remarked that in North America the idea of working selflessly for the well-being of the nation clearly had been completely subordinated to the protection of personal interests. Honesty and true merit had become totally irrelevant in the North American context, Martí noted; deceit and corruption—at least in the political arena—had become the order of the day. Mart í saw that political life in the future Republic had to be channelled away from this model represented by the infamous políticos de oficio (professional politicians) and instead had to spring from a new, highly moral, and honest source.

Several martianos have suggested that following the Haymarket riots and subsequent trial in Chicago in 1887, Martí's attitude shifted suddenly and dramatically away from the bourgeois liberal approach he had followed until that date. However, from an examination of his writing on both the theory and practice of democracy, it is evident that his attitude was little if at all changed by the Haymarket incident. Writing in 1889 for the Mexican newspaper El Partido Liberal on a contemporary study entitled La democracia práctica (Practical Democracy), Martí reiterated his total support for the democratic process, despite the difficulties inherent in implanting it in a Latin environment. "There is nothing as autocratic as the Latin race, nor anything that is as just as a democracy that has been put into practice. As a result it is not so easy to convince us Latin Americans of the worth of the democratic elective system" (VII, 347) [my italics].

Some three years later, in an article for Patria, the official journal for the Partido Revolucionario Cubano, Martí again underlined his intent to fight "con alma democrática" ("with a democratic soul"-II, 147) for the liberation of Cuba. However, there were few specific recommendations made by Martí as to the actual form of democracy; for him the need to awaken and subsequently to mobilize the support of the Cuban exiles for the independence struggle was of far greater importance at that time. Democracy at this stage represented basically an abstraction that was eminently desirable and that would in one form or another be implemented in revolutionary Cuba.

Moreover, after observing the many abuses in the United States' democratic system, Martí was convinced that a necessary first step before democracy could be introduced in any form into Cuba would be to raise the level of political consciousness of all Cuban voters, "mejorar la masa votante" ("to improve the voting mass"-X, 43) as he put it, so that the population at large would be more adequately prepared to understand the platforms of the political aspirants in an independent Cuba and the theory of democracy itself. Martí demanded that all Cubans should question every political candidate and every official policy, their cooperation in this matter being truly crucial. By this method he hoped to end the Spanish habit of "favoring among the workers a fundamental dislike of politics, so that they will not get involved in Cuban politics" (II, 201), and to transform this apathetic attitude toward political life into an active participation in national affairs. For as Martí wrote: "A rebellious person is worth far more than a meek one. A river, too, is worth more than a stagnant lake" (XXI, 142).

Again using the U.S. political system to illustrate his aspirations for the liberated patria, Martí in his Fragmentos (Fragments) clearly emphasized the need for his compatriots to take an active, and necessarily selfless, interest both in national politics and in political theory, hoping that in this way they would avoid being manipulated as were their American counterparts.

I do not want the people of my country to be like these Americans—an ignorant, emotional mass that goes wherever the bosses want it to go, making noises that the people do not understand as they play on the people's passions the way a pianist plays on the keyboard. Anyone who gratifies popular passions is a blackguard. Conversely, the people that renounces its use of reason and allows its country to be exploited is acting unjustly. (XXII, 73)

There are not, however, any sinister implications of thought control in respect to this desire of Martí to raise the political consciousness of his fellow Cubans. Quite simply, Martí hoped that as a result of their own patriotic and selfless reasoning, all Cubans would be able to decide the best form and system of government as well as the most suitable policies for the island. Thus he expected (perhaps somewhat overoptimistically) that following an honest study of the national situation the Cuban voters would be able to choose between the patriotic statesmen (among whom he definitely numbered himself) and those people interested in personal gain, the políticos de oficio (professional politicians). Martí's hopes for this direction were extremely straight-forward, as expressed in a letter to José Dolores Poyo in December of 1891.

It is my dream for every Cuban to engage in politics in an entirely free manner, as I understand the Cuban does, and in all deeds to act out of prudent feelings of solidarity, making his own decisions, without being influenced by any harmful or deceitful interests. (I, 276)

In a liberated Cuba, Martí was determined that all forms of manipulation, largely attributable to the political ignorance of the masses, had to be avoided at all costs, so that a dedicated, selfless, and honest government could emerge, supported and totally understood by the Cuban people as a whole.

José Martí considered political consciousness—or at the very least an objective appreciation of politics—as an absolute necessity for his Republic. Equally important for him, though, were the concepts of an effective and legal opposition to the government and of freedom of expression, whether it be of press or speech. All Cubans had to be conscious of every political alternative before electing their representatives, and as a result Martí was adamant at all times that freedom of expression should be guaranteed. "In free countries, the opposition has three major channels: freedom of expression, legislative assembly, and the press" (VI, 242). This early view (expressed in June of 1875) was consistently defended by Martí, always aware of the necessities of such basic liberties.

Indeed, some fourteen years later in a report to La Nación, Martí stated clearly that "the fundamental freedom, the basis for all others, is the freedom of mind" (XII, 348). He saw the potential danger of teachers who might exploit their position to indoctrinate students less politically aware than themselves and warned that this would not be tolerated in the future Republic. The teacher, he stated, was not to act as a mold that shaped the students' minds but rather was to be "an honorable guide, who will show in good faith what needs to be shown" (XII, 348). Illustrative of Martí's determination that all Cubans participate in political discussion was his desire that every citizen of the Republic should have the right to criticize any aspect of national government, since this was both a privilege and a duty. There was, however, one proviso—the criticism leveled at the administration was to be an honest attempt to offer constructive suggestions on methods of improving the government. He wrote in 1891: "Peoples have to live criticizing themselves, because critical reflection is healthy; but criticism has to be carried out with only one heart and one mind" (VI, 21). It is therefore possible to conclude, without reservations, that freedom of expression was essential for Martí, who in his Fragmentos (mostly written between 1885 and 1895) firmly defended this policy, declaring that "every time they strip a person of his right to think, it is like killing a child" (XXII, 114).

For Martí the direct result of these two basic necessities—a high level of political consciousness and a fundamental freedom of expression—was the definite obligation for all citizens to vote in every election in the patria. In the same report to La Nación in which he spoke of the need to "mejorar la masa votante" ("improve the voting mass"), Martí also outlined his theories on the common, moral obligation of the entire country to cast their ballot. "As in the case of every right we possess, voting is also a duty; whoever does not fulfill this obligation should be punished with a sentence not less than someone who gives up his weapon to the enemy!" (X, 43).2 Martí's stance on this issue was quite clearly that a citizen who ignored this civil and moral obligation by failing to vote in an election, whatever his political affiliation, was abdicating from one of his most sacred responsibilities and should be imprisoned because, quite simply, "es un ladrón" ("he is a thief"-XI, 125).

At all times Martí warned his fellow Cubans that their active cooperation was not only desirable but also obligatory. It was their duty to take an active interest in all levels of government, to question every official policy, and to vote in all elections. Furthermore, they were expected to vote not necessarily for what was in their personal best interest but rather for what would most benefit the patria. Understandably, this essentially selfless and highly responsible attitude that Martí expected of his fellow Cubans was even more firmly demanded of those prospective leaders who would guide them. Martí's profound disillusionment with the manner in which the noble democratic inspiration of North American politics had been prostituted by an ever increasing number of greedy and self-seeking politicians had ultimately convinced him that a totally new direction had to be followed in Cuba, one that would be dedicated to the well-being of all Cubans. 3

Writing in 1883 Martí clearly summarized the two very different approaches that could be followed in Cuba after independence had been won. On the one side was what Martí considered the example of the North American political system, at that time controlled by large corporations and rich industrialists, and seemingly unconcerned about the problems facing the less fortunate members of their society. Essentially this appeared to him as a cold, unfeeling system whose maxim, based on Martí's reports, could well have been "might is right."

On the other side was the approach to politics that Martí favored, one that can be described as a humanistic attitude. He was determined that political life in Cuba should not revolve solely around the economic development of the nation and that instead of regarding politics as a profession, an oficio (occupation), the Cuban people should always consider it a sacred vocation, a sacerdocio (religious vocation).

Politics is like a religious vocation when one participates because of danger to one's country, because of an expansive soul. there are some people who emerge from themselves, overflowing with love, and need to give themselves to the common good, bringing to earth an invisible sword, always held high, which lights up the battlefields with its radiance. . . . But when politics fall to the level of being merely another occupation, it usually leads to villainy. Such sad spectacle is now being offered by the United States. (IX, 355)

In Martí's liberated patria everything would have to be subordinated to the well-being of the nation as a whole; a new form of politics—a selfless and patriotic one—would be introduced.

Another integral feature of the political structure that Martí hoped to institute in Cuba was its essentially Latin American nature. Despite any charge of being an idealistic dreamer that could possibly be levelled at Martí, he was well aware that any form of government implanted on the island had to make a definitive break with all of its artificial (and primarily Spanish) traditions and customs, reverting instead to a system based directly on the reality of Cuba. For as Martí urged, the government instituted after independence had been won from Spain had to be "la copia legítima" ("the legitimate copy") of the nation that had elected it, in both its objectives and traditions," "and if it is not, an effort has to be made so that it will be" (XIV, 364). Writing in 1891, Martí was even more adamant about this need for a form of government based on the reality of the patria:

The good ruler in Latin America is not the person who knows the systems of government in Germany or France, but rather is familiar with the elements that make up his own country and how he can direct them in their entirety to arrive—using methods and institutions born from their country—at that desirable state in which everyone realizes their potential. . . . The government has to be born from the country. The form of government has to be reconciled with the basic components of the country. Government is really nothing other than the balancing of the natural elements of the country. (VI, 17)

In summary, prior to the organization of the Partido Revolucionario Cubano, of which he was the Delegado (leader), Martí's plans for the type of government he aspired to introduce in an independent Cuba revolved around two basic programs, on each of which he placed equal emphasis. The first program, his desire for an essentially just and actively democratic society was sincere but somewhat simplistic because of a lack of concrete planning. The second broad plank in Martí's reform program was the need for "Cuban content" in all spheres of life in the patria—economic, social, cultural, and political—and in fact his attitude can be well summarized by his famous dictum: "Let us make wine out of bananas; if it turns out bitter, at least it is our wine" (VI, 20). These programs, Martí claimed, would together ensure that the political structure emerging after the liberation of the island would constitute an essentially new and truly Cuban administration. "We are adults and do not want artificial governments cut with scissors and based on a foreign fashion dummy. Instead we want a work that develops from our intelligence and is taken from the mold of our country" (IV, 275).

Prior to 1891, Martí's actual revolutionary efforts were of a somewhat fragmented nature. Thereafter, he was demanding nothing less than the liberation of the patria and the introduction (for the first time in Cuba's history) of a democratic and Cuban form of government, yet he had remarkably little experience in an undertaking of this magnitude. The year 1891 saw a redoubling of Martí's attempts to gain the support of the Cuban exiles, and more important, to organize them into a cohesive revolutionary party.4 The subsequent founding of the Partido Revolucionario Cubano in January of 1892 and his election as its leader would thus afford him the opportunity to unite the Cuban exiles living in the United States and by doing so to develop valuable organizational experience.

The inauguration of the Partido Revolucionario Cubano (henceforward referred to as the PRC) and the role of Martí within the party structure provide a new and vitally significant source of evidence with which to analyze the type of political structure envisaged by Martí for the liberated patria. Indeed, because Martí did not live to see an independent Cuba, his role in the PRC is really the sole practical evidence of his views on the workings of democracy and on the desired nature of postindependence Cuban society. The validity of such an examination is indicated by Martí himself, who claimed that the party truly represented a microcosm of the type of democratic society that he hoped to found in Cuba.

The grandeur of the Partido Revolucionario Cubano is precisely that in order to found a republic, it has started with a republican base. Its strength is that, in this work in which all share, all too have the same essential rights. (II, 278)

The success of Martí in consolidating the diverse interests of the exiles into a powerful political party was a very considerable achievement. At that time some thirty-four clubs of Cuban exiles were in existence, according to one source.5 While the vast majority of these were in Florida, particularly in the towns of Key West (usually referred to as Cayo Hueso by the Cubans) and Tampa, there were also sizeable clubs in New York, Philadelphia, and New Orleans. Martí thus had the task not only of winning the goodwill and cooperation of the clubs, obviously at great distances from each other, but also of channeling their support into effective and concerned political action in an attempt to overthrow the might of Spain. Moreover, since many of the clubs had been formed principally as cultural and social centers rather than as hives of conspiracy, Martí also had to impress upon each of them the urgent need for complete revolutionary solidarity among all Cuban exiles. Another serious problem faced by Martí in the task of uniting these diverse associations into a common united front was the wide range of social levels, of religious and political persuasions, and of racial origins comprising the membership of the many Cuban clubs.6 And, as if these obstacles were not of themselves insurmountable, Martí was also faced with the constant problem of keeping in communication with all of the revolutionary associations, for he was well aware that any successful revolutionary effort would have to depend on the active support of as many of his fellow Cuban exiles as he could muster. Martí's ability to win the support of so many clubs and individual Cubans and to direct this support into an effective and extremely well-planned liberation campaign reveals a great deal not only about his personal charisma and patriotic conviction but also about his organizational ability, an aspect rarely mentioned by martianos. Consequently, Martí truly appears to have been an organizer and a propagandist of the first order, far removed from the romantic and idealistic poet that pre-1959 interpretations generally depicted him as.

The type of self-denial and dedication to the revolutionary cause that José Martí expected from his fellow Cubans can in many ways be gauged from his own willing devotion to the cause of independence, in particular after 1891. His home life had long before collapsed; his wife Carmen Zayas Bazán, failing to understand his patriotic zeal much less his apparent determination to wrest control of the island from the Spanish, had already returned to Cuba several years prior, taking with her their young son, José (the object of so many of Martí's poems in Ismaelillo). In 1891, Marti renounced all of his official posts, as well as the income that he received from his teaching and from his literary work. Consequently, without family ties or official commitments in New York, Martí was then able to direct his full attention to the task of uniting the Cuban population of the United States and forming them into a revolutionary force capable of liberating their homeland.

Because morale among revolutionary groups in Cuba itself was so low and the Spanish control of the colony was as repressive as ever, Martí realized that the necessary first step in the liberation process had to be taken among the Cubans living abroad. However, the type of expedition that José Martí hoped to form in North America was entirely different from any earlier campaign planned by Cuban revolutionaries. Instead of the traditional filibustering type of scheme, such as that planned in 1884 with Máximo Gómez which in essence was intended to offer arms and military leaders to provide the necessary revolutionary spark in Cuba, Martí's plans were far more ambitious. In fact what Martí hoped to accomplish was the unification of all Cuban exiles in the United States into a cohesive political party with the intention of exporting to Cuba not only the necessary spark for the revolution but also the firmly established outline (within the PRC itself) of revolutionary social and political structures that he subsequently hoped to found in Cuba after independence had been won. In other words Martí did not plan simply to overthrow the Spanish forces, but rather—and far more important—to offer to the patria the broad outline for the future society and political administration of the island.

In many ways the charismatic form of democracy favored by Martí for the liberated patria can be ascertained from the manner in which he organized the Cuban exiles. Invited by the Cuban population of Tampa to speak in the Ignacio Agramonte Club, Martí traveled from New York and addressed his fellow Cubans on November 26 and 27. Martí's presence whipped up such a frenzy of militant patriotism among the Cuban exiles that the next day he helped to draft a series of recommendations, the Resoluciones tomadas por la Emigración Cubana de Tampa (Resolutions Taken by the Cuban Emigrants of Tampa), which summarized the widely felt longing among these Cubans for the liberation of their country. Martí had thus acted as a stimulus to their patriotic yearnings, and within two months the Partido Revolucionario Cubano had been formed, the revolutionary constitution of this party (the Bases del Partido Revolucionario Cubano) clearly modeled from the earlier Resoluciones.

Both of these brief documents, the Resoluciones and the Bases were extremely important; for the Cuban revolutionaries they represented something similar to the Declaration of Independence for Thomas Jefferson and his compatriots. The Resoluciones were particularly noteworthy because until this time revolutionary fervor among the exiled Cubans had been of a fragmentary nature, with most of the clubs of Cuban exiles rather isolated from each other and lacking a common identity or sense of purpose. The presence of Martí among these same Cuban exiles dramatically remedied this situation as his sincere patriotism, his personal fame as an exceptional poet and newspaper reporter, and his abundant encouragement and energy combined to create a stimulating atmosphere, the end result of which was a single revolutionary party, determined to unite, as the first resolution stated, "in a common, republican, and free action, all the honorable revolutionary elements" (I, 272). Martí personally composed this revolutionary charter and, because of his obvious sincerity and great personal charisma, immediately established himself as a symbol around whom to rally. He was accepted enthusiastically by his compatriots as their undisputed leader.

Moreover, the Resoluciones are particularly important because they represented a significant first step towards formalizing, in a single document, Martí's fundamental reform program for the political structure of a liberated Cuba. Martí's own broad aspirations for the future Republic had now been accepted as the official policy of the majority of Cuban exiles and two months later, with the foundation of the Partido Revolucionario Cubano, these objectives were to be unanimously accepted as the official goal of the entire party. Martí had thus gained the wholehearted support of the Cuban exiles and at the same time had convinced them that his ideas on the necessary liberation struggle should form the basis for the future society of the patria. The PRC, a united party of Cuban exiles, all of whom had agreed to the revolutionary constitution of the Bases, finally represented an effective revolutionary force.

The Resoluciones are composed of four very brief recommendations, all of which were developed in the Bases after the founding of the PRC. The most important of these was the third resolution, which repeated several familiar themes of Martí including the need to accommodate all political activity of the Cuban exiles to the nature of Cuban reality and, more significant, the need to ensure that the revolution was to be fought for the benefit of the entire country.

The revolutionary organization has to be fully aware of the practical necessities of our country, based on its composition and history, and has to ensure against working—either now or at some future time—to the advantage of any particular class. Instead it has to work by uniting all the concerned forces of the country through democratic means and strengthening ties of common action and fraternity among Cubans residing abroad. It also has to seek the respect and support of other republics and has to work toward the creation of a just, open Republic, united in its territory, law, work, and cordiality, in short a Republic created with the help of all and for the good of all. (1, 272)

Because these brief Resoluciones represent the core of the subsequent Bases del Partido Revolucionario Cubano (and, by extension, of the type of republic that Martí aspired to found in an independent Cuba), it is possible to make some general, but pertinent, observations on several key items of his political hopes for Cuba. Above all it is clear that Martí wanted an inherently egalitarian society, "levantada con todos y para bien de todos" ("created with the help of all and for the good for all"), in which no particular class or group would receive preferential treatment. The inclusion of all Cubans, and not just the white exiles, deserves special attention. In the 1868-78 revolutionary struggle initiated by Céspedes, the rebels, fearing a possible uprising against them of the freed Negro slaves and desperately needing the support of the rich plantation owners, had initially decided to refrain from condemning slavery. Now, however, Martí's projected plans for the liberation of the patria clearly stated that all Cubans were to be equal before the law, a concept never before accepted in Cuba.

The fulfillment of Martí's desire to "join together in a common, republican, and free action all the honorable revolutionary elements" (I, 272) was taken a step further less than two months later with the foundation of the PRC, once again in Florida. On January 2, 1892, Martí was presented to the population of Key West, after which there followed a meeting of Martí with the leaders of the Cuban separatist groups. Within three days Martí had drawn up the Bases del Partido Revolucionario Cubano (as well as a supplement detailing matters of procedure, the Estatutos secretos del Partido), which were approved unanimously by the presidents of the various associations, and the PRC was inaugurated.

The Bases truly represented an interesting summary of Martí's earlier political statements, now united in a single revolutionary manifesto and regarded as the fundamental reform program for the liberation of Cuba. In all there were only nine Bases, although each of them clearly showed a determination to change radically the entire spirit of life on the island, rapidly replacing "the authoritarian spirit and bureaucratic composition of the colony" (I, 279) with a far more equitable type of society from which all Cubans would benefit. After what Martí termed "una guerra generosa y breve" ("a generous, brief war"-I, 279), there would be instituted in the Republic an honest and democratic political system. One phrase that sums up admirably the broad sweep of these intended reforms is taken from Article 5 of the Bases. After the war of liberation "that has to be undertaken for the good and decency of all Cubans," the plans of the PRC were essentially to "hand over to the entire nation this liberated country" (I, 280). 7

The objectives of the PRC, as presented in the Bases, were straightforward: to obtain the total and uncompromising independence of Cuba (and to assist Puerto Rico in her struggle for independence), and subsequently to institute a totally new life style in a fully liberated country.

To found, by means of the honest, cordial exercise of man's legitimate capacity, a totally "new" nation, based on a sincere democracy, capable of overcoming (through substantial work and balance of social forces) the dangers inherent in liberty being gained suddenly by a society that has been designed for a system of slavery. (I, 279)

In this way the Bases represented an amplification of the original goals of the Resoluciones; the later document also constituted a "statement of intent," almost an approximation of a revolutionary national constitution as well as a general outline of the type of society to be founded in a liberated Cuba.

One of the most interesting aspects of the political structure of the PRC, as Leonardo Griñán Peralta has indicated, is the position of Martí as the Delegado of the party.8 The choice of this word by Martí himself instead of the more common term of Presidente reveals a great deal about the way in which Martí viewed his role in the revolutionary struggle, and indeed by implication the role of any future leader in the liberated patria. Martí at all times stressed the need for a highly selfless and essentially moralistic form of government—from all citizens of the Republic, and in particular from the Delegado.

Neither in this duty, nor in any other, does this delegation understand that its position is merely to build a revolutionary personage opposed to others. . . . A sincere patriot should sacrifice everything for Cuba, even the glory of falling while defending her against the enemy. (II, 43)

Indicative of the individualistic and selfless form of democracy advocated by Martí was his conviction that he had not only been elected by his corevolutionaries but also had been "delegated" with the task of freeing his homeland from Spanish domination. He did not regard this task as an imposition, nor did he consider this an opportunity to win personal glory or renown. Quite simply, as he wrote to Federico Henríquez y Carvajal in March of 1895, he interpreted his role of Delegado as being based on two fundamental premises—great personal sacrifice and unbounded patriotism: "For me the patria will never be a personal triumph, but instead agony and duty" (IV, 111). Ideally any ruler of the patria, whatever his title, had of necessity to subordinate all personal triumph to the collective well-being of the Republic.

Although one can detect a desire on the part of José Martí to continue serving his country as a director of the nation's destiny after independence had been won, nevertheless it is very obvious that he had not the least intention of imposing himself upon the Cuban people. Above all else, Martí considered himself an instrument of the people, the one delegated by them to liberate the patria. Writing in 1893, Martí expressed very clearly that he was totally dependent on the will of his fellow revolutionaries. "What we have to take to Cuba is an idea—not a person. It is not simply Martí who is to land—instead it is the magnificent union of the Cuban emigrants" (II, 278).

A close examination of both the Bases and the accompanying Estatutos secretos reveal that Martí favored a highly personal form of government, essentially radical in nature, and in which supreme authority lay with one person, the Delegado. Equally interesting is the fact that the leader of the PRC was elected annually by all members of every associated organization; and should all of his counseling bodies (the cuerpos de consejo, consisting of the leaders of the various revolutionary clubs) so decide, he could be asked to resign before his term of office expired. (Martí was reelected twice after his initial appointment.) Obviously the Estatutos secretos of the PRC, with their extremely precise regulations, reveal a rigid adherence to democratic practices, providing detailed information on the duties of the Delegado, the treasurer, and the various cuerpos de consejo, as well as on terms of office and election procedures.

These details provide a valuable insight into the workings and internal structure of the PRC, particularly useful, as has been stated, because of Martí's determination to base the social and political structure of the Republic on that of the party itself. Although the PRC cannot strictly be classified as following a parliamentary democratic system, nevertheless it strongly favored a form of democratic centralism with the final decision in any matter being taken by the Delegado. In an independent Cuba, had Martí survived, undoubtedly he would have striven to ensure the establishment of a similar political model in the Republic, one in which all Cubans would have been actively encouraged to participate in the decision-making process and in which the chosen leader (whether Martí himself or another) would have been accountable at all times to the people at large, who in turn would have been at liberty to vote on the leader's performance at regularly stipulated intervals.

That there are few concrete proposals for the actual means of providing the "sincera democracia" promised by Martí in Article 4 of the Bases is a result of the many difficulties inherent in any attempt to "unite in a continuous or common effort, the activities of all Cubans living abroad" (I, 280). Because the Cuban exiles came from such a wide variety of backgrounds and beliefs, quite understandably Marti had to maintain a low profile, hinting at many reforms, not always directly stating them, lest he alienate the support of any one of the diverse groups that belonged to the PRC. Yet despite the apparent lack of explicit and minutely planned schemes for the control of the island after independence had been won, there were many definite intentions of the party, and a general overall plan is evident.

What is contained in both these important documents (the Resoluciones and the Bases) are the barest essentials, the lowest common denominator as it were, of the revolutionary politics that Martí envisaged for a liberated Cuba. There were obviously more immediate concerns to Martí than the drawing up of a detailed political constitution. His first and most crucial task was to unite the Cuban exiles, convincing them that his scheme for the defeat of the Spanish forces by their comparatively limited resources was in fact feasible. José Martí also had to reshape the sense of national confidence, obviously at a low ebb after more than three and a half centuries of Spanish colonialism, promoting a sense of cubanidad (a pride of being Cuban), in short, nation-building. 9

Of fundamental importance in Martí's program for political reform was his deeply patriotic and at the same time highly moralistic approach to government.10 The whole spirit of political life had to be changed, he consistently argued, so that all Cubans (and not just a limited nucleus of upper-class creoles, representatives of the Spanish controlling forces) would benefit from the wealth of their country. Moreover, if Martí had been allowed his way in the liberated patria, an entirely new approach to politics would obviously have resulted, in which all citizens of the Republic would have been expected to take an active interest in politics at all levels. The result that Martí expected from such an approach was the construction of a new society—honest and just—for the first time in Cuba's history. Martí's dream, completely supported by all of his political pronouncements and neatly summarized in the Resoluciones, was for "the creation of a just, open Republic, united in its territory, law, work, and cordiality, in short a Republic created with the help of all and for the good of all" (I, 272). His concept of the patria was really nothing more than this—but neither was it anything less.

Essential to José Martí's new approach to political life in a liberated Cuba were the innovations that he hoped to introduce in what can be termed the human dimension of the Republic. Martí was well aware of the pressing need for sweeping political reforms in the patria, but also realized that in order for them to be successfully instituted it would be necessary from the outset to inculcate into every Cuban citizen certain moral qualities which together would result, he hoped, in a heightened moral consciousness and would eventually lead to the formation of a "new man."

Martí wanted to reshape completely the Cuban national character, injecting into his compatriots first a measure of confidence in both their own potential as well as that of the nation as a whole and then building upon this self-assurance by encouraging them to adopt a deeply patriotic and, more important, a humanitarian interest in their fellow man. Martí maintained that a new humanitarian consciousness was absolutely essential in order to complement and ultimately to guarantee the application of his revolutionary sociopolitical program. Consequently this moral foundation, so rigorously defended by Martí, offers an interesting insight into his plans for a liberated Cuba because it underlies all aspects of his political thought.

Martí was well aware, however, that the necessary first step before attempting to introduce these rather dramatic changes into Cuban society was to convince his fellow Cubans of their common ability—united as the Cuban nation—to fully realize their potential. This role of nation-building, for indeed it was nothing less, as well as Martí's achievements in promoting a united front among his corevolutionaries should never be underestimated; Cuba had been ruthlessly exploited by Spain for more than three hundred years, during which time the creole population had been forced to bear the brunt of official Spanish discrimination. In effect they had always been regarded as second-class citizens, receiving few privileges from their Spanish overlords, while their country was virtually held in contempt by the Spanish forces on the island. Moreover, although these many injustices had always been deeply resented, the Cuban people as a whole had never accepted a common goal in relation to the form of political liberation they desired, nor had a common method for achieving their independence ever been derived. Martí thus saw his initial task as the awakening of a national consciousness, promoting a sense of nationality, of common identity, and subsequently making his compatriots proud of their distinct cubanidad.

Because of their status as a colony of the madre patria, most native-born Cubans had never considered their homeland as anything other than an appendage of Spain: from the cradle they had been reared in a Spanish environment, had been educated in Spanish traditions, and had been encouraged to identify with the Spanish system of government, with all attempts to stray from this norm harshly suppressed. Martí's intention was to foster a spirit of dignity and self-confidence, in short (as he wrote about another "pueblo abrumado" ["oppressed people"], the North American Indians) to "return to a crushed, exhausted people respect and an awareness of their worth" (VI, 34). Three centuries of Spanish domination had resulted in what can rightly be termed a national inferiority complex. Writing in 1894, Martí noted the pressing need to overcome this complex and to promote a deserved pride in Cuba's vast potential.

Does Cuba have to be a tavern, an idle beer parlor of San Jerónimo? Or will it be an independent, industrious, Latin American nation? This and nothing less is Cuba's task. (III, 359)

Indeed, if José Martí had been successful solely in this goal, his achievements would have been remarkable.

Martí's earliest writings reveal his clear understanding of the needs of the patria to develop its own national identity, judged from his patriotic composition, "¡10 de octubre!" ("October 10!"), written shortly before his sixteenth birthday to honor the Céspedes rebellion. Apparently his earliest plea to his compatriots to liberate themselves from their Spanish shackles and, at last, to appreciate their distinct national identity, this poem portrayed Cuba as "the nation which, for three centuries, has suffered the full weight of oppression" (XVII, 20). Fortunately, Martí gained hope from the activities of the Céspedes expedition and encouraged his fellow Cubans to grasp the true importance of their cubanidad and to liberate the patria from Spanish domination.

Finally, and with integrity,
Cuba breaks the hangman's noose which
oppressed her
And haughtily shakes her free head!

(XVII, 20)

Writing more than twenty years later, after the failure of several military expeditions that had attempted to bring about this much needed independence, Martí indicated how life for the vast majority of Cubans in the colony was still as oppressive and as demeaning as it had been some three centuries earlier. He examined the basic lack of human and national dignity in colonial Cuba, concluding: "That is Cuba now, a faded rose, dusty and withered, a rose watered with tears and blood!" (IV, 392).1 Quite obviously, Martí's task in establishing any sort of national pride was fraught with many serious problems.

José Martí's ambitious plans to arrest both this lack of national self-assurance and the trend toward self-denigration, while at the same time promoting a sense of patria to all Cubans, had two definite and self-complementing objectives. First, by overcoming this national inferiority complex he hoped to make his compatriots proud of their cubanidad and subsequently to act (preferably against the Spanish control of the island) in order to defend the much maligned national identity. Second, he was convinced that once Cubans became conscious of their cultural heritage, they would be more inclined to treat their compatriots, and ultimately their fellow man, with the dignity that he felt they richly deserved. There would thus be a dramatic change of temperament in his fellow Cubans, Martí reasoned; once they were liberated from the oppressive colonialist system, they would be more prepared to treat their compatriots, and of course themselves, with both respect and esteem. Consequently, the conditions would be ripe to foster an appreciation of the inherent dignity of one's fellow man, the necessary initial step in the long, complicated procedure of creating a new man.

The importance that the concepts of dignidad (dignity) and self-respect held for Martí can be gauged from his much cited statement made in a speech in 1891 to the Cuban exiles living in Tampa: "I want the first law of our Republic to be the worship of the full dignity of man by all Cubans" (IV, 270). In his famous letter to the editor of the New York Herald, dated May 2, 1895, José Martí further revealed his high regard for this concept of dignidad, while explaining that one of the fundamental intentions of the liberation campaign was to establish and to protect by law the doctrine of human dignity. In the letter Martí related the moral depression into which his country had been plunged.

Cuba's children . . . suffer in indescribable bitterness as they see their fertile nation enchained and also their human dignity stifled, as every day they have to pay with their free Latin American hands a tax that is almost all they produce, and even worse with their honor—all for the necessities and vices of the monarchy. (IV, 152)

It must be stressed that Martí's attempt to erase the national inferiority complex and to cultivate "la dignidad plena del hombre" ("the full dignity of man") was not the result of any blind nationalism. Martí's aspirations for a moral regeneration of Cuba were unquestionably related to his hopes of reawakening the patriotic zeal of his compatriots; both would obviously facilitate his far-reaching plans for the revolutionary struggle. Martí was also fervently intent upon encouraging, virtually for the first time in the realm of Latin American belles lettres, a close spiritual union with the other countries of the continent. With regard to his master plan for the liberation of Cuba, he was convinced that there was much that the island could learn from her already independent sister republics in Latin America.

Therefore in order to protect this concept of dignidad, Martí believed that a certain spirituality, which he had discovered on his travels through various Latin American countries, would have to be introduced into Cuba. This fervent desire for a spiritual union with "the countries of Latin America, my sister and mother" (VI, 362) became far more noticeable after he began to reside in the United States in 1880. Less than two years later Martí was totally convinced that, because of their very different origins, Latin America should avoid being unduly influenced by North America.

There are avaricious races like that of the North whose formidable hunger requires virgin peoples. And there are faithful races like that of the South whose offspring want no other sun to warm them than that of their patria and who desire no other riches than the golden orange and the white lily grown in their grandparents' garden. (IX, 224)

Based on his observations of the United States, Martí became increasingly disturbed by the obvious preoccupation of a large sector of the North American population with accumulating vast hoards of wealth. Writing for La Nación in May of 1884, he informed his readers: "This vice is in the marrow of these North Americans—for them life has no other objective apart from piling up a fortune" (X, 39). The result of this widespread lust for money was aptly termed the "metalificación del hombre" ("metalification of man"—XXI, 16) by Martí, a process that obviously had to be avoided in the future Republic. In another article in La Nación two years later, and again using the United States as a model of the pitfalls to be avoided in the patria, Martí explained the very definite need for the Cuban nation to develop spiritually as well as economically.

Here you can see this general crudity of spirit that afflicts even the expansive, delicate minds. Everyone fighting for themselves. A financial fortune as the only objective of their lives. . . . There is not sufficient soul or spirit in this gigantic nation, and without that marvelous coupling, everything is bound to collapse (in any nation) tragically. . . . It is necessary to shake these souls from their status as spiritual dwarfs. In all men the merchant should be cultivated—but so too should the priest. (X, 375-376)

In many ways José Martí's pride in the achievements and rich spiritual nature of "Nuestra América" acted as a foil to his desire for the development of a sense of identity, of national dignity, in Cuba itself, which explains his continuous references to the achievements of "his" America. Comparing "Nuestra América" to the United States in 1887, Martí noted: "Our Latin American nations have done far more in rising to their present position than the United States have in supporting themselves (and perhaps declining in essential matters), given the amazing base from which they started" (VII, 330). Four years later in his famous report entitled "Nuestra América" Martí heaped abundant praise on the independent republics of Latin America, and claimed: "In less time than we so far have had and given the chaotic factors of our reality, there have never been such advanced, compact nations formed" (VI, 16).2 Accordingly, the Cuban people as a whole should take heart, Martí insisted, for they sought the same goals already fought for and decisively won by the other republics of Latin America.

Martí's respect for both the achievements and essential spirituality of "Nuestra América" was intended by him to serve as an example of what Cuba also could hope to accomplish if she were prepared to take the initial step toward independence. Without a firm commitment made by all his fellow citizens, a commitment to promote this awareness of national dignity while attempting to develop the desired Latin "spiritually," Martí's subsequent plans calling for selflessness and for great personal sacrifice in order that the patria at large might benefit would be ill-founded.

The initial step in Martí's master plan, and indeed an absolute prerequisite for a new liberated society, was to increase the level of national consciousness among his compatriots. Only by respecting the patria's great potential would it be possible to overcome the deeply rooted colonialist mentality. Having achieved this awareness of their cubanidad, Martí was certain that his fellow countrymen would at last respect their own capabilities and, apprised of these hitherto unseen talents, would unite to overthrow the Spanish overlords. Martí regarded cubanidad as the essential base for all future revolutionary activity; for without pride in their nationality and the belief that they were capable of defeating the Spanish forces, the revolution would be short-lived and his ambitious plans for the "new society" would be of no avail. Conversely, informed of their distinctive Latin American spirituality and feeling themselves closely related to their sister republics, Martí was certain that the Cuban people as a whole would be prepared to embark on the program of reforms he saw as essential for the necessary liberation of the island.

José Martí, though, was well aware of the many problems that his nascent Republic would face after political independence had been won. Accordingly he devised a program of rather severe contingency measures which, if successfully applied, he was certain would guarantee both the immediate stability and the subsequent development of the patria. His desire to promote a feeling of dignidad among his fellow Cubans having proved successful, he then hoped to build upon this newfound national confidence, impressing on his corevolutionaries the urgent need for great personal sacrifice in order to firmly establish the Republic.

It was obvious to Martí that unless an entirely new approach to all major problems facing the Republic was adopted—an approach in which all members would be expected to participate actively—the freedom won after independence would vanish quickly. Therefore he advocated continually that all Cuban citizens should work together conscientiously and selflessly in order to undertake the many responsibilities that would result after independence had been won. This exhortation for all Cubans to cooperate, at all times placing the best interests of the state before their own, he termed sociabilidad. As early as 1875, Martí underlined its fundamental importance for the complete restructuring of Cuban society: "Sociability is a law, from which another important one, that of harmony and agreement, springs" (VI, 307).

There does not appear to be any suitable equivalent in English for Martí's concept of sociabilidad; certainly the definition of "sociability" given by the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary as "the character or quality of being sociable; friendly disposition or intercourse" is inadequate. The International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences disregards the term, although the third usage of the word "socialization" is reasonably close to Martí's interpretation.

Narrowly conceived, political socialization is the deliberate inculcation of political information, values, and practices by instructional agents who have been formally charged with this responsibility. A broader conception [which is necessary in the case of Martí] would encompass all political learning, formal and informal, deliberate and unplanned, at every stage of the life cycle, including not only explicitly political learning but also nominally nonpolitical learning that affects political behavior, such as the learning of politically relevant social attitudes and the acquisition of politically relevant personality characteristics. 3

Yet even this explanation does not fully express Martí's understanding of the concept of sociabilidad. For him it was quite simply a case of exemplary social solidarity, of persuading all Cubans to lead their lives in an exemplary, selfless fashion, at all times subordinating their own interests to the pressing needs of society at large. Martí himself explained the essence of the term in characteristically direct language. "Our life on this earth is essentially only an obligation to undertake good works. If we are bitten, we stroke our aggressor—afterward our conscience will pay the price of our actions. Let everybody do their work" (VII, 118).

Sociabilidad meant for Martí the process of shared adversity and of mutual assistance, by all Cubans, which he hoped would constitute the basis for a new revolutionary society. He was certain it would unite his compatriots in a common plan of personal sacrifice, while offering them a bright and just future after the island had been stabilized. Martí further hoped to develop the individual consciousness of his fellow Cubans in order to ensure the continued success of such a policy, for just as he expected them to make a determined effort to raise the level of their political awareness, so also did he hope that after studying the strengths and needs of their society they would decide of their own volition to contribute to the sociabilidad program.4 This obviously depended on many variables: dispassionate reasoning on the part of the Cuban people, the necessity of an honest personal conscience in all citizens, and, finally, the ability of Martí to persuade the Cuban nation as a whole to subject themselves to this rigorous soul-searching and subsequently to commit themselves to placing the community's best interests before their own.

Yet Martí appeared undaunted by these rather imposing obstacles, apparently steadfastly believing, based on their appreciation of the need for human dignidad in a liberated Cuba and perhaps after reflecting on Martí's own exemplary conduct, that an honest and dispassionate appreciation of the needs of their society would be reached by all Cuban citizens and that eventually all would agree to participate in this new cooperative doctrine. Basically Martí wanted a firm, collective consciousness to appear, which after taking into account the necessities of the Republic would afterward lead to its citizens becoming what Martí termed hombres radicales (radical people). For as he explained in 1893:

A true man goes to the very root. Really that is a radical: someone who gets to the roots. Let no one who does not examine all facets be termed a radical. Moreover, let no one be called a man if they do not contribute to the security and happiness of their fellow humans. (II, 377)

Furthermore, this desire to convince his fellow Cubans of the validity oí sociabilidad was not restricted merely to Cuban or Latin American circles for, as he claimed in 1894, there was only one "superior" race. "It is made up of all those who consult, before anything else, the best interests of humanity" (IV, 325). Therefore, he did not hesitate to include in his preferred group George Washington, "el anciano de (the old man of) Mount Vernon" (VI, 198), beside Bolívar and Hidalgo because all three had obeyed similar duties toward their fellow man. Indeed, his report on the death of the American industrialist-philanthropist Peter Cooper testified that it was possible even in the heady world of high finance to follow this strict doctrine of sociabilidad. The obituary written by Martí in many ways embodied the essential qualities of this aspiration.

He thought that human life is a form of priesthood, and conversely that selfish well-being a type of apostasy. . . . Only one key opens the doors of happiness: Love . . . and he saw that whoever locks in his human potential lives among lions; and whoever rises above this and gives himself to others lives among doves. (XIII, 50)

Thus the two key elements of Martí's program of sociabilidad are concisely a reawakened social conscience supported by totally selfless conduct. In actual fact, as Julio Le Riverend has noted, Martí's revolutionary plans intended to bring not only major social and political innovations to the liberated patria but also to change the very nature of the members of contemporary Cuban society.

Objectively, the revolution needs not only a tremendous effort to destroy the old regime but also—above all else—preparations for a totally new life. In essence, therefore, what is required is the creation of conciencia, a sociopolitical awareness, which will produce substantial changes in the conduct of individuals. . . . Martí attempts, and in his time succeeds, to educate some and to convince others that the Revolution is not merely a change of name but rather a fundamental change in men.5 [my italics]

But lest this aspiration of Martí to bring about a "cambio de hombre" ("a fundamental change in man") be regarded as the rantings of an idealistic but impractical dreamer who hoped that his fellow Cubans would suddenly, and as if by magic, decide to work together for the well-being of the nation, it is only necessary to consider Martí's determination—reflected in his intent to introduce legislation if necessary—to ensure that this "cooperative work ethic" was a most definite success. Because an immense amount of reconstruction would be required after political independence had been won, Martí was determined that his compatriots of necessity would have to share in the task of laying the foundation of the Republic. In this task none would be allowed to shirk their responsibilities and duties; all would be obliged to follow the dictates of this program of sociabilidad.

Martí frequently emphasized the fundamental immorality of all forms of selfish behavior, even claiming in 1888 that "es un ladrón el hombre egoísta" ("a selfish man is a thief"-XII, 43). In the context of the rebuilding of the patria, Martí stated that anyone found guilty of selfishness should be treated as a thief, for in essence the guilty party was depriving the Republic of a much-needed contribution. Moreover, given the urgent need for all Cubans to cooperate in the liberated patria, Martí relentlessly extolled the virtue of work, "llegado a ser considerado por él una nueva santidad" ("considered by him a new form of sainthood").6 The message that Martí preached was extremely clear; he never departed from the premise that all men have an absolute obligation to dedicate whatever talents they possess to the betterment of the society to which they belong. Their abilities, Martí claimed, only represented "a debt that has to be paid. The Creator issues them, and men are to collect the resulting advantages" (XIV, 273).

Martí maintained at all times that this debt to society had to be paid by each and every compatriot; there were to be no exceptions. Anyone who attempted to avoid paying his contribution to the common good was not only to be severely reprimanded but also to be physically forced to work for the benefit of his society. Laziness, as he stated very clearly, was truly a heinous offense, "un crimen público" ("a public crime"), and all nonproductive members of the society would be forced to contribute to the patria.

Laziness is nothing less than a public crime. Just as people do not have the right to be criminals, so too they do not have the right to be lazy. Not even indirectly should society assist those who do not contribute directly by working. . . . We should detest all lazy individuals and oblige them to take up a clean, useful life. (VIII, 379-80)

Martí never presented a chronological outline of the order in which he wanted his plans for this moral foundation of the Republic to be implemented, although it can be discerned that the initial necessities for his country were first to raise the level of national awareness and second to encourage the formation of a strict moral conscience in his fellow Cuban, which he hoped would ultimately lead to a general nationwide acceptance of his far-reaching sociabilidad program. The resulting mixture of selfishness and of patriotism would constitute the basis of what, as early as 1878, Martí saw as the essential "nueva religión" of the Republic. "The new religion: virtue not as a result of punishment and duty, but rather through patriotism, conviction, and toil" (VIII, 120).

In order to stabilize this innovative program, Martí hoped to fuse other fundamentally important features into the daily life of the patria: the lofty concepts of justice and freedom. Both of these terms obviously contain a multitude of possible meanings and nuances and can be used to support virtually any individual or group action or belief. There is simply no definitive explanation of what constitutes either of these concepts. In the case of Martí, however, it is quite obvious exactly what he understood these terms to mean: both stem from the same profoundly moralistic and inherently selfless basis of his thought.

Justice for Martí was never simply a high-sounding rhetorical slogan used to arouse the masses and subsequently secure their support. Rather, he always viewed justice in a personal perspective, a quality which he hoped to inculcate into his compatriots so that eventually this search for lo justo (whatever is just) would assist them in developing their own highly attuned moral consciousness. Justice was thus a concept which Martí urged his fellow Cubans to develop for their own self-realization and which he firmly advocated using as the yardstick for all major political decisions made in the Republic. Once again, as has been noted in relation to Martí's desire for popular acceptance of sociabilidad, Martí's aspirations for a thorough national awareness of lo justo required, perhaps overoptimistically, the conscious determination by the Cuban people as a whole to selflessly enact the theories that he had presented to them. By means of dispassionate reasoning and selfless conduct, Martí hoped to establish a foundation for the Republic centered on the perpetual search for justice.

In essence, Martí's policy of justice offered his corevolutionaries no more and no less than a chance to be honest with themselves and fair to each other. Based on his determination to construct the liberated Republic upon a pristine and compassionate foundation, Martí interpreted this program of justice as a necessary means of strengthening his doctrine of sociabilidad, because in actuality both were interdependent on the other.

Given Martí's conviction that there was never an absolute, morally right or just cause, obviously he could never conscientiously afford blanket support to any individual or cause; the individual merits of all possibilities had to be considered before any decision could be taken. Justice thus implied for Martí the necessity, yet again, of an honest examination of any problem in order that an unbiased and just solution could be found.

Perhaps an example will serve to illustrate this apparently simplistic yet fundamentally honest interpretation of what in fact constituted lo justo for Martí. In his many years of providing his Latin American readers with the famous Escenas norteamericanas (North American Scenes), one of the themes most commonly found was that of the increasingly bitter struggle between capital and labor and the multitude of related social problems that resulted from this conflict. Martí's support of the humble and exploited sectors of society had always been obvious, as indicated in his lines of poetry made famous by the song "Guantanamera": "With the poor people of this earth / I want to cast my fate" (XVI, 67). It would thus appear natural for Martí to defend the noble actions of the exploited workers in their struggle for a decent working wage and simultaneously to condemn this unfeeling and immoral exploitation by their employers. However, this was not the case. Martí's approach to such conflicts, and to all major social and political issues, depended entirely on a conscientious appraisal of the claims and counterclaims of both the participating factions. His report on a tram drivers' strike in 1883 illustrates his careful weighing of all arguments both for and against the strike. "There are indeed unjust strikes. Simply being unfortunate is not reason enough to be in the right. . . . But the tram-drivers' strike was just" (X, 396); and as a result Martí supported their case. For him there was no shortcut to justice.

The essential ingredients for a proper application of justice were thus selfless conduct and an objective process of reasoning, obviously a policy that was easier in theory than in practice. At first this concept of Martí appears to suffer from an overabundance of impractical details, because it was an absolute necessity according to Martí to consider all possible facets of any individual problem before deciding which, if any, solution to a particular problem was correct or just. This, however, was not as impractical as it may seem; eventually the new man (Martí never estimated how long it would take for his master plan to develop), imbued with a heightened awareness of his many social responsibilities and of his innate dignity as a citizen of the Republic, would learn to appreciate the inherent justice of any particular situation and would thus be able to decide accordingly.

Ideally, Martí hoped that this sense of justice would be implemented by his compatriots in all everyday situations and in all dealings with their fellow citizens. This understanding of justice was an ongoing process about which, Martí warned his fellow Cubans, they could never become complacent. Nor were there to be any special rights or privileges for any particular individual or group; all citizens would be expected to follow closely this preoccupation with justice and of course to base their conduct upon it. Eventually, Martí was firmly convinced, an objective communal application of justice would result, one that would benefit all members of the patria: "All workers who have reasoned out their position, and who are dignified, calmly and forcefully energetic, will never be defeated by anyone—provided their cause is just" (VIII, 352-53) [my italics].

The second major feature of Martí's "nueva religión" was nothing less than freedom itself, regarded by him as being of paramount importance for the stability and the self-respect of the Republic. Political independence was obviously the first necessary step in the liberation process, but as Jorge Mañach has correctly noted this same political independence actually constituted only one manifestation of the wider concept of freedom, of the many basic liberties that would be available to all Cubans in the Republic.7 Freedom, justice, and dignity, three intangible but essential concepts, would be for the first time within the reach of all citizens.

The determination to implement freedom in the patria represented for José Martí even more of a personal crusade than his preoccupation with the concept of justice. This may well be explained by his experiences in Cuba where no attempt was ever made by the Spanish authorities to claim that their domination of the island—in all political, social, economic, and even cultural matters—was just. On the other hand, the Spanish administration did make an attempt, albeit at irregular intervals, to promote a facade of liberty; the most noteworthy example was the tragically short-lived rule of Governor Dulce. Martí's bitter disappointment at this pretense of liberty, withdrawn almost as soon as it had been introduced, made him more determined than ever that in a liberated Cuba this exceedingly thin veneer would be replaced by a true form of political freedom. Martí openly despised the artificial philanthropic pose of the madre patria and frequently condemned the few meager liberties generously bestowed on the island as "migajas de libertad" ("crumbs of liberty"-XIV, 183) and "merienda de ratones" ("a snack fit only for mice"-XIV, 462), which he claimed were an affront to the intelligence of the Cuban people.

In their place he proposed a new and effective concept of freedom such as his countrymen had never before experienced. Writing for La América in 1883 he explained the nature of the "libertad ilustrada" ("enlightened freedom"-VIII, 381) that he offered them. It was not, he took great pains to explain, that rather simplistic view of the domination of the privileged elite by the working classes. He stated: "We know that is simply a new and terrible tyranny" (VIII, 381). Nor was it to be what he termed "that nominal, widely proclaimed kind of freedom, which in many people seems like . . . what the cross of noble Jesus did on the banners of the Inquisition" (VIII, 381). Instead it was to be a practical liberty, based on the needs of the patria and a general respect for the rights and privileges of one's fellow man, a respect which, Martí insisted, would result from a selfless appreciation of the society.

That freedom in customs and laws which springs from an adequate balance of rights, provides a general respect as mutual guarantee, and frees itself from the traditional dependence on that supreme, unerring director of human nature: the instinct of self-preservation. (VIII, 381)

The appeal that the idea of freedom held for Martí is probably best judged by his lyrical description, published in La América in September of 1883, in which he described freedom as "the essence of life . . . the inescapable basis for all useful works" (IX, 451).8 Yet despite the emotional pull on him by the idea of introducing the noble doctrine of liberty into his country, Martí was well aware that there were several possible interpretations of that term. As the Encyclopedia of Philosophy points out:

When men speak of their being free or claim freedom for themselves, they are referring not only to the absence of coercion and restraint imposed by others (freedom from) but also to that on behalf of which freedom is being claimed (freedom for).9

As this observation relates to Martí's vision of a liberated Cuba, obviously Martí wanted both freedoms for the patria. The first is self-evident: to free his country from the clutches of Spanish domination, from the oppressive colonialist system that exploited the island so ruthlessly, from a general position of servility not far removed from slavery. On the positive side in balance ("freedom for") Martí also possessed very explicit ideas in regard to what he desired for his countrymen to attain. Among the benefits that he firmly believed would accrue from an honest application of his concept of freedom was an intellectual and political freedom that would offer his fellow Cubans for the first time in their history the opportunity to discuss both the validity and the defects of official policy, to offer constructive criticism as to how the government could be improved, and thus to participate in the governmental decision-making process. In short, Martí's plans were essentially to convert his fellow citizens into "people who are aware of their society and who are educated, responsible, and capable of assuming the weight of a major task for society's benefit." 10

The physical benefits of freedom that Martí hoped to provide for his compatriots will be outlined in some detail in the next chapter on Martí's specific plans for the revolutionary society of Cuba. In general, however, freedom was not merely an empty concept for Martí; he made it obvious that the entire struggle for political independence only constituted a means of bringing about a more healthy, educated, and just society." Indeed Martí's interpretation of freedom was essentially a socially-oriented view that was rather vague and naïve at times, while at others was truly thought-provoking because of its quite startling relevance to modern times (as for instance his plans for a concentrated mass literacy campaign, on which an almost identical scheme was modeled by the Castro government in 1961, the "Year of Education"). A study of the basic freedoms that Martí dreamed of implementing in a liberated Cuba further reveals that all had to be subordinated to what Martí considered the most pressing needs of society, thus emphasizing even more the social orientation of his policies.

In other words, after the liberation of the island there would be many hitherto-unknown liberties available to all Cubans, liberties, as Martí qualified, that would respond to fundamental social needs. Thereafter Cubans would be able not only to enjoy the intangible benefits (dignidad, pride in their racial and national origins and culture, a sense of identity) but would also be free to enjoy social privileges previously reserved for the Spanish-born peninsulares: a thorough education, an honorable and respected position in society, and full-time employment. These were all new freedoms for Cuba, and all were planned to reshape totally the structure and the very fabric of Cuban society. It is important to note that had his compatriots chosen to ignore a program regarded by Martí as essential for the development of the patria, he was fully prepared to actually force their acceptance through legislation had he continued to be reelected Delegado. He was determined that all Cubans should cooperate in the rebuilding of the Republic and thus in the liberation process. Consequently these newfound freedoms, available to all Cubans regardless of color or social standing, were not without severe social obligations to be imposed on all citizens.

The success of Martí's plans to introduce such ambitious reforms into the Republic obviously hinged closely on the popular acceptance of the rigorous sacrifices inherent in his sociabilidad program; yet Martí was confident that his fellow Cubans, after mature reflection, would accept the validity of his theories. Nevertheless, Martí was well aware, from his fifteen-year stay in the United States, of the facility with which seemingly excellent human and social liberties could be abused and realized these many new freedoms that he hoped to implement in Cuba would require much care and attention. As in so many other aspects of life in revolutionary Cuba, the successful application of an important governmental policy depended almost entirely on the cooperation and goodwill of all citizens. All Cubans would therefore be expected to ensure that these new liberties were not subject to manipulation or abuse and would also be expected to exercise them constantly in order that they be better appreciated. For as Martí graphically explained in 1881:

In the gymnastics of nations, as in the case of individuals, one only starts lifting large weights after having lifted (for an extensive period) lesser weights. One's strength grows through constant, regular exercise, and conversely is lost when it is compelled to sudden explosions of energy. It is not this occasional, galvanic strength, fictitious and external, which nations need to prosper with certainty. Instead, what is required is one's own muscular strength, well-exercised, well-distributed, permanent, internal. Freedom is a reward which history bestows as a prize for this labor. One cannot enter the enjoyment of a reward without first having deserved it as a result of a solid, useful task. (XII, 146)

In order to better appreciate Martí's dedication to achieving this "libertad verdadera" ("true liberty"), it is useful to study his reaction to the campaigns waged by two mild opposition groups in Cuba—the Autonomists and the Annexationists—both of whom he saw as endeavoring to foist upon the Cuban people a partial liberty, one that would leave the vast majority of Cubans under an equally unsympathetic regime. Martí's conviction that freedom was a privilege to be enjoyed by all Cubans, not merely the prize possession of a selfish minority group, led him to condemn vociferously the self-centered attempts of both the Autonomists and the Annexationists to maintain their own advantageous economic, social, and political position without considering the best interests of the country at large.

The Autonomists, a monied Cuban elite with even greater social and financial prospects to anticipate if their plans proved successful, were attempting to convince the Cuban people that rather than risk the well-being and economic stability of the island by plunging into a needless and violent war against Spain they should submit to the well-intentioned dictates of the madre patria, because the benevolent motherland had promised that gradually Cuba would be allowed to adopt an autonomous position, similar in status to that bestowed on the Dominion of Canada by Great Britain. Martí fought vigorously against this group, for he could clearly see the danger of what he termed "the disastrous imperial rule by a creole oligarchy" (II, 264), who were determined to preserve their special privileges at all costs as they gradually filled the lucrative posts vacated by the crown's representatives and continued to exploit the vast majority of the citizens of an "autonomous" Cuba. Freedom, Martí countered, should not be a hollow-sounding term tossed around highhandedly by this influential group but instead should offer practical applications to everyday situations and should be enjoyed in all of its forms by every Cuban citizen.

For similar reasons Martí violently condemned those other members of the creole elite, the Annexationists, who also attempted to dissuade their fellow Cubans from forging a path toward full political independence, claiming that Cuba was in no condition to govern itself because it lacked both the economic stability and the national maturity for such an undertaking. Their solution was to encourage the country to change masters, allowing itself to be absorbed by the nearby United States of America and thereby become a protectorate of that country. The Annexationists also enjoyed a favored status on the island; and convinced that annexation of the island by the U.S. could only improve their own standard of living (because if effect they would simply replace all the Spanish administrators and owners), they consistently preached to their compatriots that they should forget the shortterm need of political liberty and instead reflect upon the economic advantages to be enjoyed as a dependency of the United States. This condition of exchanging one national dependency for another was completely unacceptable to Martí, who called the Annexationists "the arrogant minority who understands by 'freedom' their free domination of their fellow citizens, whom they judge of lesser lineage" (III, 104). Martí advocated that freedom not only had to be decisively won as a result of the determined effort of all Cubans—Martí frequently referred to the need for "the respect that has been attained by winning one's own independence" (II, 347), it also had to be enjoyed equally by all of his compatriots. As the opening paragraph of the Resoluciones tomadas por la Emigración Cubana de Tampa states, Martí quite simply wanted "to found, with the remnants of a colony which had thrown slaves upon slaves, a useful, pacific nation composed of men who were truly free" (I, 271).

Manuel Pedro González, commenting on the vast moralistic and humanitarian essence of José Martí's plans for sociopolitical reform in Cuba, has voiced a common reaction of many people who attempt to unravel the fundamental thread of Martí's work.

The values emphasized by Martí in his work are of such an unusual and noble nature that the reader—or listener—who is not aware of Martí's thought becomes sceptical and suspicious and may suspect as a supporter's praise or hyperbole what is in fact merely an account of the authentic, sublime essence of Martí in its intellectual, artistic, and ethical application.12

Martí the idealist, it is thought by many, was totally removed from the reality of his time, a blatantly unjustifiable optimist, similar to the stereotyped concept of Cervantes' Don Quixote—noble but quite mad. Because of the amazing variety of Martí's talents and ideas, the unusual blend of vivid lyrical description and great poetic ability with a program of radical social reform, and in particular because of his determination to create a selfless, new man—José Martí has been widely misunderstood.

The key to understanding this deeply rooted idealism, which in the modern era seems somewhat incongruous, lies in Martí's fundamental concept of the new man, whom he obviously interpreted as a being with boundless potential. Martí, as Carlos Alberto Montaner has pointed out, firmly held "an anthropocentric vision of the cosmos. For him, man is the center of the cosmic order and the justification of all creation."13 Characteristic of Martí's firm belief in the essential virtue of man is his reply to a fellow Cuban exile when he was asked why he pursued such lofty goals: "There is no one who does not have some moral worth . . . you only need to know how to find it."14 Given the faith in his fellow man that Martí most definitely possessed and his conviction that the best guarantee for the success of his radical reform program was a revitalized moral consciousness, his campaign to build a new man and by doing so to build the liberated patria upon a moral foundation appears quite sound. His planned revolution, unlike that of the other Spanish colonies, was not simply a move to gain political independence. "For Martí there simply cannot be a revolution without the creation of an ethical awareness, in which man plays an essential part."15 Without this necessary moral foundation it is quite probable that the more radical of his plans would have come to naught; conversely with the creation of what Martí envisioned as a "new revolutionary man," the revolution would have had an excellent chance of surviving. The creation of the "nueva conciencia ética" ("new ethical awareness") was the very keystone to the revolution that Martí aspired to lead after political independence had been won, and it also constituted an absolute prerequisite for his extensive program of social reform. The liberation of the patria had to begin with a raising of national and social consciousness, in short the liberation of the Cuban citizen.



1 Martí was thus convinced that, apart from being essentially immoral, the Spanish domination of Cuba was also totally anachronistic. He therefore wanted the island to "move with the times," in an attempt to fight for the same independence already won by her sister republics more than sixty years earlier. Speaking to a meeting of Cuban exiles in New York on January 31, 1893, he scorned those Cuban Autonomists who had spoken at the last session of the Cortes in Spain and concluded ironically: "Because in this grandiose Latin America, like men wearing diapers, we are still talking about the Spanish Parliament!" (IV, 313).

2 In 1885, Martí again referred to this duty, after criticizing General Grant for his lack of interest of participation in earlier presidential elections: "In a republic, a person who does not vote is like a soldier who deserts from the army" (XIII, 88).

3 As early as 1881 Martí had predicted the growing menace afforded by what he termed the "political aristocracy" in the United States, which he saw as steadily destroying the noble foundation of the land of Lincoln: "A political aristocracy has been born from that financial aristocracy and controls the newspapers, wins in the elections, and usually has its way in congress" (IX, 108). Obviously this was totally unacceptable to Martí, and it is evident that in the liberated republic he would have attempted to curtail the power and influence of such an "aristocracia."

4 Indicative of this redoubling of Martí' s efforts to organize the resistance of the Cuban exiles was the amount of traveling undertaken by him in the United States prior to and subsequent to 1891. Martínez Estrada offers a detailed list of all of Martí's travels, in which the period from 1882 to 1890 is characterized by the observation "It is not known if he traveled." Afterward, between Martí's visit to Tampa in November of 1891 and his arrival in Cuba on April 11, 1895, there are more than 50 journeys through the United States and parts of Latin America. Ezequiel Martínez Estrada, pp. 225-28.

5 Leonardo Griñán Peralta, Martí, líder político (La Habana: Instituto Cubano del Libro, 1970), p. 89.

6 In regard to the widely ranging political tendencies of the various groups of Cuban exiles that Martí was attempting to unite, it is only necessary to consider the variety of ideological beliefs held by many of the leading figures of the PRC. They range from regular republicans like Varona, through a large gathering of anarchists, to the socialist group comprising Diego Vicente Tejera and Fermín Valdés Domínguez and other radicals, the best known of which was Carlos Baliño, later one of the main founders of the Communist Party of Cuba. With reference to this extremely wide background of ideological persuasions Blas Roca has noted well the importance of Martí as a unifying factor in the PRC: "In the Partido Revolucionario Cubano, Martí brings together—in a veritable front of national unity—clubs of the most diverse ideology and social composition: from the Enrique Roig Club, in which mainly socialists were gathered, to the Mercedes Varona, composed of women. In the Partido Revolucionario Cubano, Martí joins together people who merely desired political independence from Spain with the radical revolutionaries who saw in independence the necessary stage for further social conquest, the rich and the poor, black and white, the new forces of revolution and the representation of the 1868 war." "José Martí: revolucionario radical de su tiempo," Casa de las Américas 13 (Jan.-Feb. 1973):15.

7 With regard to this necessary "decoro," an illustrative example of Martí's determination that this should be implemented in the Republic is his refusal of a large sum of money, contributed to the liberation cause by a Cuban highway robber. Martí, as Jorge Ibarra and many other Martianos have shown, did not accept the contribution, despite a pressing need for funds, claiming instead that a liberated Cuba would have to spring from clean roots. Indeed, as Ibarra accurately claims: "All this causes us to think necessarily that Martí did not conceive the party only as an instrument to liberate Cuba from Spanish domination but rather as a means of radically transforming Cuba." "José Martí y el Partido Revolucionario Cubano," Ideologin mambisa (La Habana: Instituto Cubano del Libro, 1972), p. 172.

8 "A delegate (delegado), or representative, and not the president, was what Martí wanted to be; because although it might be true that every leader acts according to his own aspirations . . . it is always good for his followers to see him convinced that he is working because of being delegated or given a mandate by them." Griñán Peralta, p. 85.

9 Speaking in 1896, Martí' s corevolutionary, Enrique José Varona, explained the achievement of Martí in uniting the Cuban exiles, given the national psyche at that time: "To rebel always appears easy. To rebel, however, at the time and under the conditions that Martí did so was extraordinary. Cuba lay defenseless, bled white, following two major rebellions. If anything seemed to float in the air, it was a desire for peace, to heal the wounds, and recuperate. . . . The slogan at the time was the need for reconstruction." "Martí y su obra política," reprinted in Casa de las Américas 13 (Jan.-Feb. 1973):93.

10 Writing about this moralistic form of government, Alfonso Bernal del Riesgo terms Martí an "ethocrat": "Martí departs from his speeches and his work and goes directly, like an arrow, against the colonial vices that remain in the Republic. And this takes place naturally, without there being any need to convert Martí to any modern political doctrine. He was an 'ethocrat'—from ethos, character, morality, and from cratos, authority, government." "Estampa psíquica de Martí," Revista Bimestre Cubana 41 (1968):241.


1 It is interesting to note Martí' s views on what he considered the absolute duty of all honorable men to fight for their self-respect, their sense of dignidad, whenever they saw liberty threatened: "Every just, honorable man will fight for liberty wherever he sees it offended, because that is the same as fighting for one's integrity. He who sees liberty offended and does not struggle in its defense, or who helps those who offend it—he is not a complete man" (IV, 391). In the context of contemporary Cuba, Martí states that this duty clearly revolved around replacing the immoral and uncaring administration of Spain with a new, moral and necessarily Cuban form of government.

2 In a similar vein is an entry made in a personal notebook of Martí in 1894: ". . . When we drove out the conquerors [Spain], was what they left worth more than the Indian culture to be found here before their arrival? In poetry, what colonial verses are worth the same as the only ode that we know to be of Netzahualcoyotl? In architecture, what church wall or famous frontispiece—including even the baroque Sacristy of Mexico City or the Governor's house—is worth the same as a wall of Mitla?" (XXI, 375).

3International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, ed. David L. Sills (New York: Cromwell, Collier and Macmillan, 1968), 14:551.

4 In short, what Martí wanted to inculcate into his compatriots was the same highly moralistic consciousness that he already possessed. As he had already discovered, Martí essentially wanted his fellow Cubans to realize: "The human race really has only one cheek; whenever a man receives a blow on his check, all other men receive it too" (X, 288).

5 Julio Le Riverend, "Martí, ética y acción revolucionaria," p. 48.

6 Willy de Blanck, "José Martí el gran político cubano que se adelantó a su tiempo," Archivo José Martí 5 (July-Dec. 1950):228.

7 Jorge Mañach states: "Although political independence was for Martí that indispensable objective, the word 'independence' is seen very rarely in his writings. This was of a lesser importance, really an implied value in the broader concept of freedom." El pensamiento político y social de Martí (La Habana: Edición Oficial del Senado, 1941), p. 17.

8 "Without air, the earth dies. Without freedom, as without essential air itself, nothing can live . . . like bone to the human body, the axle to a wheel, the wing to a bird, and air to that wing, so is liberty the essence of life. All that is done without liberty is imperfect, while conversely, the more that one enjoys it, the more one lives surrounded by fruits and flowers. It is the inescapable essence of all useful work" (IX, 451).

9Encyclopedia of Philosophy, ed. Paul Edwards (New York: Cromwell, Collier and MacMillan, 1967), 3:223.

10 Julio Le Riverend, "Martí y Lenin," Política Internacional 8 (1970):62.

11 Jaime Suchlicki, studying this intent of Martí to build such a model society, is correct when he affirms: "Martí can only be understood if we think of him as a student of social problems, rather than a purely political doctrinaire." "The Political Ideology of José Martí, Caribbean Studies 6 (Apr. 1966):31.

12 Manuel Pedro González, Indagaciones Martíanas, p. 53.

13 Carlos Alberto Montaner, p. 7.

14 Blanca Z. de Baralt, El Martí que yo conocí (New York: Las Américas, 1968), p. 41.

15 Julio Le Riverend, "Martí, ética y acción revolucionaria," p. 48. Le Riverend concludes that in many ways Martí can indeed be regarded as a true humanist: "He is a humanist in the sense that he has faith in his fellow human beings, he believes them capable of overcoming their own limits and finally being guided for their own good, acquiring an even greater moral awareness, which will then be used as a basis to transform reality."

Donald E. Rice (essay date 1992)

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Last Updated on June 7, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 13024

SOURCE: "The Definition and Unification of a Revolutionary Movement," in The Rhetorical Uses of the Authorizing Figure: Fidel Castro and José Martí, Praeger Publishers, 1992, pp. 35-73.

[In the following excerpt, Rice looks at Martí as a historical figure in general and as the specific historical figure Fidel Castro drew on to lend authority to his revolutionary goals.]

Most critics agree that movements have beginnings. Most do not agree that they know what a beginning is. They frequently disagree about whether or not there are discernible demarcations of beginnings or stages that may be isolated and analyzed. Yet, somehow, it seems that movements are initiated. We may be mystified as to when it can be said that a movement becomes a movement, but in spite of this enigma, we continue to study the process of social change because we believe that an understanding of that process is worthwhile.

I have argued thus far that one of the clues to the process movements go through is the use of authorizing figures from the past to create meaning in the present. Initially, in the early days of consciousness raising in a movement, authorizing figures contribute to the definition of movement goals and to the unification of the many individuals and groups that will make up the movement. The rhetorical use of history is a central component of definition and unification and can take many forms as leaders construct coherent rhetorical visions. In part, leaders make references to past stages in their nation's history. In Cuba, these references often refer to past instances of external domination by Spain, England, and the United States. Similarly, references to the past may make use of authorizing documents such as previous constitutions and statements of founding principles. I contend, though, that references to past personages carry the most significant weight. Such strategies seek to associate current practices with a personified, preexisting ideology creating ideological stances that are often directly tied to past historical phases. Note U.S. references to Jeffersonian thought and the Roosevelt era. Ideas are often remembered by associating them with representative historical figures. And those ideas may be revived by further personification of them or by extending the association to other, current personages.

The association of José Martí's ideology with Fidel Castro's was clearly a contributing influence to the definition and unification of political groups in prerevolutionary Cuba. As will be argued, José Martí has played a central role in the political and cultural history of Cuba. In this chapter, I will identify and analyze the ways that Fidel Castro employed the figure of Martí as a defining and unifying force. Attention will be given to the following: (1) the influence of Martí on Castro's early life; (2) Castro's invocation of Martí's image and writings in early communications, most notably the prison speech, "History Will Absolve Me"; and (3) the absorption of Martí by the July 26th Movement, as highlighted in early documents of the revolution, especially the 1956 Program Manifesto.

In this chapter, we seek to better understand how Castro's use of Martí as authorizing figure helped catalyze a forming movement. Methodologically, the approach is textual analysis; inferences will be drawn from analysis of particular rhetorical techniques that feature the use of Martí as authorization.

Martí and Castro

The observation that José Martí and Fidel Castro have occupied similar positions in Cuban history is neither fabrication nor exaggeration. In many ways, their association is clearly motivated by the facts of that history. The two men shared similar backgrounds: Spanish fathers with military histories (ironically, Castro's father had been part of the Spanish forces that fought against Martí in 1895); early exposure to the study of political philosophies; involvement with political protests as youths; and imprisonment at an early age. Both men moved quickly to posts of civilian and military leadership. Furthermore, clearly Castro was heavily influenced by the speeches and writings of Martí. According to biographer Tad Szulc, this influence started at a very early age in Castro's life:

Castro had drafted Martí as a historical and inspirational ally from his first days as a campus politician, and he never again let go of the Apostle. As a university student, Castro recorded Martí speeches on wire, and listened to them to hone his own style. He has a rhetorical monopoly on Martí quotations, which are so numerous (Martí's collected works in a current Cuban edition run to nineteen volumes) that he must be the only one to remember them—and to know when a Martí is regarded as a prophet whose words are sacred, and Castro is gaining a similar prophet status through the massive dissemination of his every public (or written) expression.1

Szulc suggests that the two men, though separated by many years, share "fundamental principles," among them the love of country, the love-hate relationship with Spain, and the belief that Cuba would be liberated only by guerrilla warfare.2

Other writers also have noted the historical and per-sonal links between Martí and Castro. Marta Harnecker, in Fidel Castro's Political Strategy, notes that the Ortodoxo party to which Castro belonged during his university years "knew something about scientific socialism and had an advanced political awareness . . . with deep roots in Cuban traditions, especially in the ideas of José Martí."3 Even Enrico Santi, previously discussed as a critic of Castro's appropriation of Martí, is forced to admit the historical similarities between the ideological perspectives of the two Cuban leaders. Santi states that "Martí's revolutionary nationalism and his aggressively native or indigenous imagination therefore make him a natural precursor of the post-1959 regime."4 Santi quickly adds, however, that any stronger attempt to link Martí to Marxism is "an infinitely more difficult task."

Santí's objections to the teleological perspective present in current Cuban thought about revolution do not negate the peculiar positioning of historical events that undergird the teleology. The cataloging of similar events in the lives of the two leaders smacks of an obsession bordering on the mystical. Historical coincidence has paved the way for numerological interpretations: Castro's July 26th Movement was founded exactly one hundred years after Martí's birth, the Spanish-American War occurred in 1895 and the Castro revolution in 1959, and so on. Such coincidences provide partial backing for those who wish to link Martí and Castro. As Santi suggests, this viewpoint represents a process of figuration, showing Castro to be the fulfillment of Martí. If Martí was a "man of ideals," then Castro is depicted as the "man of action" destined to carry out those ideals.5

Though Santí's criticism of the more extreme arguments linking Martí and Castro (reincarnation, resurrection) may be a point well taken, he fails to account for the real and studied influence of Martí on Castro. As noted, Castro absorbed Martí's work as a youth, both as an ideological inspiration and an orator of considerable skill. Castro himself admitted his indebtedness to Martí in a 1985 interview with Frei Betto:

Before becoming a Marxist, I was a great admirer of our country's history and of Martí. I was a disciple of Martí's. Both Marx and Martí begin with an "M," and I think they resemble each other greatly. I'm absolutely convinced that, if Martí had lived in the same environment as Marx, he would have had the same ideas and acted in more or less the same way. . . . I think that Martí's thinking contains such great and beautiful things that you can become a Marxist by having his ideology as a starting point.6

Of course, it is just such a reduction of Martí to a "starting point" for Marxism that many Cubans object to. Although this is not the only blatant example of Castro or other government officials comparing Marx to Martí, it is too easy to jump to the conclusion from this that Castro possesses a weak understanding of Martí's philosophy. It will become clear in the following pages that Castro's references to Martí are indeed complex, thorough, and varied. As mentioned in Chapter 2, the problem of making close associations between Martí and Marxism is clearly illustrated in the above comment and in many later statements. In Chapter 4, this problem is addressed in detail.

Early Influences on Castro

Even at the earliest stages of Castro's leadership career, the influence of Martí was prevalent in word and in theme. As a politically active student at the University of Havana, and as a chief organizer of anti-Batista forces, Castro frequently conjured an image of national unity reminiscent of Martí's vision of "Our America." In his later sketches of this vision, Castro described himself and his role in terms that hearken back to Martí's struggle against Spain:

I intended to participate in that struggle [against Batista] simply as one more soldier. I began to organize the first action cells, hoping to work alongside those leaders of the Ortodoxo party who might be ready to fulfill the elemental duty of fighting against Batista. . . . But when none of these leaders showed that they had the ability, the resolution, the seriousness of purpose or the means to overthrow Batista it was then that I finally worked out a strategy on my own.7

In the same way that Martí became the force uniting the various civilian and military branches of the Cuban Revolutionary party, Castro featured himself to be the glue binding together the many parts that eventually would make up the July 26th Movement. This binding process began to occur in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Most of the political activity in Cuba at that time took place at the University of Havana, where Castro was a student.

Often referred to as a period of political gangsterism, Cuban politics in the 1940s was intense and often violent. Castro entered this political arena immediately upon arrival at the university in 1945. According to Hugh Thomas, within a week, Castro had made a name for himself by challenging the president of the Student Federation to a fight. Over his college years, Castro was associated with many different political groups and causes, notably an action group named the Socialist Revolutionary Movement (MSR), and an attempted revolution in Colombia in 1948. In the early 1950s, he became a member of the Ortodoxo party and began to publish writings in a journal called Alerta. Through this vehicle, Castro's name became well known. By 1952, he was openly advocating revolution.

Martí emerged as a key image for Castro in the early solidification of the July 26th Movement leading up to the attack on the Moncada barracks in 1953. However, though arguably the most prominent influence on Castro, Martí was not the only influence. As Thomas points out in his well-known history, The Cuban Revolution, as a student Castro was influenced by a variety of historical and political sources including Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, Karl Marx, José Antonio Primo de Rivera, and Juan Perón.8 Castro's earlier Jesuit education also contributed to his sense of discipline and purpose. Thomas qualifies the directness of these early influences, though, recognizing that many of the biographical sources for Castro's early life lean toward what Thomas calls almost "mythical" exaggeration.9 And, of course, Castro's later statements about this time of his life also tend to have political shadings that seem designed to benefit his current goals. As Thomas points out, the later Castro remembered his student days as heavily influenced by Marxist-Leninist ideology. Thomas cites the following quotation from a 1961 speech by Castro:

My first contacts at the university with middle class economics showed me some of its contradictions and I got to know some revolutionary ideas. . . . When we left the University, I myself particularly, we were already greatly influenced [by Marxism].10

Whether or not this stage of Castro's development was as "greatly influenced" by Marxism as this, the influence of Martí in the forming movement was to become defined in word and action.

The Martí of Moncada

In the late 1940s and early 1950s, many dissident groups existed in Cuba, and many of them desired revolutionary change. Most of these groups came out of the University of Havana, and many had been influenced by the works of Martí as well as other authors. Fidel was the first to place Martí at the center of an emerging revolutionary ideology. He did this by organizing the first military attempt at revolution around the anniversary of Martí's birth, and he further solidified the connection to Martí in the trial that followed.

Early in 1953, Fidel organized a small force of revolutionaries from a variety of class and educational backgrounds; the force was known by some as the Youth of the Centenary (the anniversary of Martí's birth) and by others simply as the Movement.11 A plan began to form around the idea of staging an attack on two of the dictator Fulgencio Batista's military barracks: one at Moncada in Santiago and another at Bayamo.12 The goal was to strike a blow at these military centers, obtain weapons for the rebel forces, and then withdraw to the mountains and rural areas to carry on the battle, a strategy used in the earlier wars of independence in the nineteenth century.13 Throughout the planning stages of the attack, the figure of Martí was used as a central motivating force.

The agitation leading up to the attack actually began on January 27, 1953, the eve of the centennial celebration of Martí's birth. Szulc describes the scene:

When the Martí centennial came in January 1953, Fidel Castro already had a "rebel army" of sorts, and he decided to show it off, a risky gesture, but for him a typical one. To compete with the Batista celebration at the National Capitol on the night of January 27, university students' organizations, the new youths' rights committee, the women's civic front, highschool groups and young workers planned a huge torchlight parade across Havana, and this is where the fidelistas chose to present themselves to the country.14

Such bravado, linked to Martí's name and memory, would become a trademark of Castro's career. The Moneada attempt, destined to be a failure, was also destined to project Castro's fame throughout the land.

The Fidelista parade during the centennial celebration was only the first of many references to Martí leading up to the attack. In this passage, recorded by biographer Jules Dubois, Castro made specific references to Martí in his speech to approximately two hundred rebel soldiers the night before the attack:

Colleagues, you will win tomorrow or be beaten, but no matter what happens this movement will triumph. If you win tomorrow, it will be what Martí aspired to. But if not, the gesture will serve as an example to the people of Cuba. The politicians will be shown by these two hundred young men with such few resources what could have been done with the many which they themselves stole The people will back us in Oriente and in the entire island; as in '68 and in '95, here in Oriente we give the first cry of liberty or death.15

Castro's inspirational appeal defined the Movement in terms of its place in Cuba's history and unified the troops by invoking the spirit of Martí as a personification of the people's conflict, a figure that his listeners knew well. By referring to the dates of past conflict, the Ten Years War and the War of Independence, Castro presented the ensuing attack as the last in a teleological chain of revolutionary struggle against oppression.16 The Moneada conflict achieved its importance in relation to the past conflicts which, in turn, were vindicated by the new struggle. His reference to the shared location of the conflicts (Oriente province) added to the sensation of unity and shared historical purpose.

Dubois's account also draws attention to the presence of Martí in the Moneada plan in his description of an argument between Castro and one of his followers, Abel Santamaría. Santamaría had criticized Castro for choosing to divide the forces so that Castro would be at the head of the troops most likely to engage the enemy. In anger, Santamaría accused Fidel of planning his own martyrdom: "We are not going to do what Martí did. You have chosen to go to the most dangerous place, to immolate yourself when you are more needed than anyone else."17 Castro's response was to reinforce his similarity to Martí by humbly denying his own importance, placating Santamaría, and telling him, "If I die, you will replace me."18 Ironically, Santamaría was killed during the attack whereas Fidel escaped to the forests, later to be captured.19

Clearly, Martí was central to Castro's vision of his own role in early revolutionary activities. An even more explicit statement of indebtedness to Martí during the Moneada attempt and one of the earliest documents of the revolutionary movement was a nine-point program that was to be broadcast after the capture of Moncada's radio station (a capture that never occurred). Though the statement was signed "The Revolution," it is commonly thought to have been written by Fidel. Point 7 of the statement cited Martí directly:

The Revolution declares that it recognizes and bases itself on the ideals of Martí, contained in his speeches, on the platform of the Partido Revolucionario Cubano [led by Martí], and on the Manifesto of Montecristi [co-authored by Martí]; and it adapts as its own the revolutionary programs of Young Cuba, A.B.C. Radical and the Partido del Pueblo Cubano [the Ortodoxo party].20

This statement was the official adoption of Martí as the founding father of the principles of the Movement, an adoption that was to be nurtured and reiterated throughout the years of struggle and beyond. But more than this, the statement also represented the Movement's indebtedness to a variety of historical trends and ideas. Note that the persons, documents, and parties mentioned are not mainstream communist or socialist entities; if there was any common thread, it was the thread of extreme nationalism and concern for an independent Cuban society. The statement also provides illustration of the unifying function of the manifesto, placing a variety of revolutionary sources under one party. With this declaration and through the events of Moncada, Castro became the primary leader of the revolution and was seen by many as the one best able to fully articulate the goals of the struggle.

In the eighth point, nationalism was expressed in a manner that echoed Martí's pan-American dream: "The Revolution declares its respect for the free nations of America, sisters who have known how to conquer at the cost of great sacrifices the position of economic freedom and social justice."21 As indicated, the movement's vision reflected Martí's desire for a united and independent Latin America, one full of hope and a sense of its unique historic purpose. The use of the word sisters indicates the familial metaphor that Castro wanted to engender in his followers. The statement illustrated that this familial connection extended beyond Cuba's borders to any Latin American that supported revolutionary principles. It also pointed out that many in Latin America shared the same economic and social problems based on a shared history of colonization.

Finally, the closing dedication to what became known as the Moncada Manifesto described the roots of the current movement planting them in the history of Martí and the "revolution" begun in the nineteenth century:

In the name of the martyrs.
In the name of the sacred rights of the Fatherland.
For the honor of the Centenary.
The Revolution.


Continuing the family image to the very end, the mani-festo suggested that the country is the parent who nurtures the growing revolution. Revolutionaries are asked to unite under three carefully linked symbols: the martyrs (including Martí), the rights of the fatherland, and the honor of the celebration of Martí's birth. The proximity of this last line to the terse signature by "The Revolution" places Martí in the most elevated position in relation to the current struggle. The document could as well have been signed "The Revolution Martí began."

Martí, Cuba, and the revolutionary struggle mingled in this memorial to his name and to the past. Castro's ability to define and unify diverse groups of people was, especially at these early stages, based on the presentation of a version of history that removed the years between the birth of Martí and the struggle of the 1950s. By close association of sentimental shared memories, Castro had begun to link rhetorically his own personage with Martí's. In Weber's terms, a kind of traditional authority was being given primacy over the rational-legal authority of Batista. But the tradition being espoused and the connections being made were new creations, promoting a new tradition that many found attractive and appealing. Perhaps Hugh Thomas puts it best in his analysis of the Moneada situation:

Castro and his comrades were suffused by an heroic picture of their own actions in the tradition of the Cuban revolution against Spain: Castro made much of the cry of Yara and Baire, of Martí and Maceo; Castro might know something of Marx, might regard those who did not know Lenin as ignoramuses, but he evidently knew Martí much better. Like others before him, he saw himself indeed as Martí, the young man who forced the different groups opposed to Spain into a single movement, the man of heroic phrases as well as deeds, speaker and soldier, enemy of tyrants par excellence, incorruptible renewer.23

Thomas points out that Castro's indebtedness was to Martí, the figure he emulated throughout his early career, and not to Marx. Though socialism may have been part of Castro's agenda from the beginning, it was a Martían nationalism that dominated Castro's emerging vision for his nation.

"History Will Absolve Me"

From a military standpoint, the Moneada attack failed miserably. The rebel forces were slaughtered or forced to flee. Some of them were captured and tortured, then killed. Most of the survivors, including Castro and his brother, Raúl, were captured later. However, military failure did not overshadow the strategic success politically in terms of providing Castro's group with publicity. The trial that followed the attack gave Castro the public platform necessary to make his program known throughout Cuba.

Charged with organizing an uprising against the state, Castro was brought to trial in September of 1953. Due to difficulties in obtaining legal assistance, and because of his own training as a lawyer, Castro chose to defend himself. Although the trial lasted several days, the most notable portion of the defense was a five-hour speech that became known in publication as "History Will Absolve Me." It quickly became the first clear statement of the principles of the revolution. Smuggled out of prison on matchbook covers and other articles, it was disseminated in pamphlet form throughout the island. Within weeks, tens of thousands had read the text and people began to call for the release of Castro, a release that would come months later.

Many of the points laid down in the speech grew out of the Moncada Manifesto and later became the groundwork for other fundamental documents, especially the July 26th Manifesto.

The speech did much to define and unify the growing movement. It also was clearly indebted to Martí. But before we turn to the specific analysis of Martí references in the speech, we need a more general understanding of the text and its historical context. A general discussion of the speech will provide background for this analysis.


At the beginning of his defense, Castro recognized the extreme difficulty of the situation he was facing, as evidenced in his opening remarks: "Never has a lawyer had to practice his profession under such difficult conditions; never has such a number of overwhelming irregularities been committed against an accused man."24 The apparently overwhelming difficulties Castro referred to included the denial of legal aid, the isolation of over thirty days in solitary confinement, and the denial of access to the indictment itself. In spite of such difficulties, Castro was able to demonstrate in the following hours that he was not so overwhelmed as the initial description implied. The false humility demonstrated at the beginning of the speech did not hide the rebel's prowess at self-defense. In fact, it served to highlight his awareness of his ensuing leadership role. By pointing to the weakness of his position, he was already contributing to an image of self-sacrifice and a growing reputation as one who could beat the odds.

In the lengthy defense, Castro would demonstrate his ability to build himself into the central role in the struggle. If he had not been the primary representative of the revolution prior to the trial, word of brilliant defense would soon solidify his leadership position in the following months as he was able to bring together principles and ideals that linked the interests of various insurgent groups. And these ideals had been given credibility by his survival of the test of armed rebellion, the first real military attempt of the Movement.

In part, Castro's ability to unify revolutionary elements was based on his predictive ability. By giving a reasonable portrayal of what the future of Cuba could mean, he created a vision that most Cuban citizens could visualize. In an emotional section of the speech, Castro forecast the future of the struggle and his position in it:

I warn you, I am just beginning! If there is in your hearts a vestige of love for your country, love for humanity, love for justice, listen carefully. I know that I will be silenced for many years; I know that the regime will try to suppress the truth by all possible means; I know that there will be a conspiracy to bury me in oblivion. But my voice will not be stilled—it will rise from my breast even when I feel most alone, and my heart will give it all the fire that callous cowards deny it.25

In fact, the prediction was accurate, for Castro would be imprisoned and then exiled (though hardly silenced), and indeed, the truth would be suppressed by "any possible means," including many reports of his death and burial. Perhaps the generalness of the claims was what allowed Castro to appear prophetic; yet even so, this kind of seeming clairvoyance demonstrated a sensitivity and a rhetorical skill that were powerfully constructive. By describing a positive future for Cuba, and for himself, Castro contributed to his own success. Moncada and the Moneada defense signaled the beginning of mass mobilization toward revolution. Through utterance and enactment, Castro helped to transform conditions in Cuba over the following years; the process began in earnest with the Moneada defense.

In addition to developing his leadership image, Castro used detailed narrative in the speech to reconstruct Cuba's history and to chronicle the events of Moneada. Much of his tracing of historical events referred to Martí and the nineteenth century, but Castro also lamented the loss of constitutional rights that had been established in 1940. In reference to this constitution, he stated:

The Constitution is understood to be the basic and supreme law of the nation, to define the country's political structure, regulate the functioning government agencies, and determine the limits of their activities. It must be stable, enduring and, to a certain extent, inflexible.26

Castro's elevation of the 1940 Constitution was ironic in light of his earlier criticism of it. In fact, he had gone on record several times as a detractor of the Constitution as applied under Batista's predecessor, Prío Socarras, an irony that appeared markedly at one point in the speech:

When the Court of Social and Constitutional Rights supported Batista's Statutes against the Constitution, the Supreme Law of the Land was not abolished but rather the Court of Social and Constitutional Rights placed itself outside the Constitution, renounced its autonomy and committed legal suicide. May it rest in peace!27

Clearly, this change in attitude toward the Constitution increased the sense of conflict between Batista and previous conditions, between Cuba's past and present. In the above quotations and in others throughout the speech, the Constitution was presented as a set of ideals and beliefs that were effectively working prior to Batista's overthrow. Castro argued that the Batista coup in 1952 reversed any progress made by the Constitution. His sudden increase in respect for the 1940 document was designed to present an interpretation of Cuba's past that placed most of the blame for the nation's problems on Batista himself (though he also placed blame on the effects of colonization). Establishing Batista as the primary culprit continued to be a key area of focus for Castro, another factor that allowed him to provide unification through the creation of a common enemy.

The second recurring narrative theme in the speech was the story of Moncada itself. Of course, this was a major part of his own defense against specific charges. Earlier in the trial there had been much dispute over what actually went on during the attack. Castro took it upon himself to set the record straight, and his account of the attack served as a summary of all previous accounts on both sides. Castro achieved credibility by presenting a balanced view of the situation, sometimes even praising the actions of the enemy troops:

The soldiers who murdered their prisoners were not worthy of the soldiers who died. I saw many soldiers fight with courage, for example, those in the patrols that fired their machine guns against us in almost hand-to-hand combat, or that sergeant who, defying death, rang the alarm to mobilize the barracks. Some of them live. I am glad. Others are dead. They believed they were doing their duty and in my eyes this makes them worthy of admiration and respect. I deplore only the fact that valiant men should fall for an evil cause. When Cuba is free, we should respect, shelter and aid the wives and children of those courageous soldiers who perished fighting against us. They are not to blame for Cuba's miseries. They too are victims of this nefarious situation.28

Two important rhetorical techniques are illustrated in Castro's tribute to the fallen dead of both sides. First, he used a strategy of transcendence to show that the soldiers on both sides were willing to die for the higher causes of duty and loyalty. For that Batista's soldiers could not be blamed. Instead it was the "evil cause" of Batista himself that became the object of blame. Second, Castro used this opportunity to remind the courts of his earlier pleas to treat soldiers better and to increase their salaries. Whether or not he was already preparing his own path to military leadership, the focus on the importance of bravery and integrity in soldiering helped established his credibility and believability, as well as setting the tone for a struggle in which soldiers of all kinds would be called to unite behind him.

However, when describing the atrocities committed upon the rebels by other state troops, Castro did not hold back his scorn and hatred:

But what honor was earned by the soldiers who died in battle was lost by the generals who ordered prisoners to be killed after they surrendered. Men who became generals overnight, without ever having fired a shot; men who bought their stars with high treason against their country; men who ordered the execution of prisoners taken in battles in which they didn't even participate: these are the generals of the 10th of March [the date of Batista's coup]—generals who would not even have been fit to drive the mules that carried the equipment in Antonio Maceo's army [general in the Ten Years War].29

This kind of comparison to past wars became a common technique for Castro, in this speech and in future speeches, one that served as a means of placing the Moncada attack on an equal or even higher plane of importance with past revolts. This technique, used concurrently with more specific references to Martí, became part of the overall strategy of bringing the past into the present.

Castro's detailed account of the deaths of the captured rebels lifted them to martyrdom and placed their names among the glorious dead of the earlier independence wars. Santamaría, who had attacked Castro for placing himself in a position to be martyred, was himself memorialized by Castro, along with the others who died during the attack.30

Finally, "History Will Absolve Me" was also a means of presenting the revolutionary platform. The speech served as a second stage of development of the Moneada Manifesto and led to the later Program Manifesto of the July 26th Movement. In the speech Castro proclaimed what he called the five revolutionary laws that would have been announced over radio if Moneada had been captured. The laws were enumerated as follows: (1) to "return the power to the people and proclaim the 1940 Constitution the Supreme Law of the state"; (2) to "give nonmortgageable and nontransferable ownership of the land to all . . . farmers . . . who hold parcels of five caballerías of land or less"; (3) to "grant workers and employees the right to share 30 percent of the profits of all large industrial, mercantile and mining enterprises, including the sugarmills"; (4) to "grant all sugar planters the right to share 55 percent of the sugar production"; and (5) to "order the confiscation of all holdings and ill-gotten gains of those who had committed frauds during previous regimes."31

These principles were to become the center of the revolutionary program as it took power in 1959, and though they have been refined and adapted many times, they still serve as goals of the Castro government. As we will see, these principles and others were forged directly out of Martí's philosophy and writings.

"History Will Absolve Me" was the first detailed statement of revolutionary philosophy and principles and the base for later statements. Within six months of the trial, followers had published thousands of copies and distributed them throughout Cuba. As the speech became disseminated and known, it became an important catalyst in the unification of various pockets of unrest, and it became the binding symbol for many. Most importantly, the speech brought Castro to national and international attention, assuring him an important role in the struggle. Just how important that role would be was unclear in 1953, an observation that makes Castro's early awareness an especially fascinating element of the Cuban Revolution.


A complete study of all the rhetorical techniques employed in this speech could be the subject of another book. The focus in this one is on one technique and its various implementations. The method will be to identify and contextualize the many references to Martí from the speech, analyzing their function in creating definition and a sense of group identity or unity.

Early in the speech, as he began to weave his historically based narrative, Castro stated that "when men carry the same ideals in their hearts, nothing can isolate them—neither prison walls nor the sod of cemeteries. For a single memory, a single spirit, a single idea, a single conscience, a single dignity will sustain them all."32 This statement describes the philosophical core of the revolution at this stage: that people could become unified behind a single cause, the restoration of independence. Furthermore, it was important that this be a revolution of restoration, particularly at this point in the Movement. Restoration suggests that one seeks a return to a place in history claimed to have existed before. The accuracy of the description was of little importance, as the described state of bliss probably never existed. Even so, Castro was able to argue that the ideals symbolized by past constitutions and past struggles had existed and were worth fighting for again.

Certainly, a variety of historical forces were cited: past military struggles, the Constitution, other early documents. But again and again, the historical figure called upon to provide the philosophical underpinnings of the revolution was José Martí, known as the Apostle and treated with the reverence an apostle affords. The restoration of the past was made more powerful when presented in the personified form of the resurrected Martí.

The first direct reference to Martí in the speech came in regard to the overwhelming difficulties Castro faced in the trial. One of these difficulties was the hiring of Court physicians to say that he was too ill to appear in court. In the speech, Castro repeated a quotation from Martí that he had originally used in an earlier letter to the court about his illness: "To show my determination to fight alone against this whole degenerate frame-up, I added to my own words one of the Master's lines: 'A just cause even from the depths of a cave can do more than an army.'"33 Martí the Master, another of his adoring titles, was first conjured as a kind of spiritual tool for Castro as he decided how to combat the treachery of Batista and the attempts to keep him from testifying. One of the interesting features of this use of Martí was the practical level on which it occurred; the Master was summoned here to help solve a particular logistical problem. In Chapter 4, it will be shown that this type of use may have served to sanction particular political behaviors. In this speech, however, we can already see the centrality of Martí's role and the sense of closeness that Castro felt to Martí. This closeness can also be seen in the following passage:

[T]hey prevented me from receiving the books of Martí; it seems the prison censorship considered them too subversive. Or is it because I said Martí was the inspirer of the 26th of July? Reference books on any other subject were also denied me during this trial. But it makes no difference! I carry the teachings of the Master in my heart, and in my mind the noble ideas of all men who have defended people's freedom everywhere!34

Notice here the association of the teachings of the Master and the "noble ideas of all men who have defended freedom everywhere." One key to Castro's call for unification was to put the conflict in a world context, illustrating the universal qualities of oppressed peoples. At this point, the strategy was not yet used to directly link Cuba's struggle to other areas of the Third World, as it would be later. But the connection did serve to heighten the perceived urgency of the cause. By making a close link between Castro's thoughts about freedom and Martí's, Castro provided the emotional base, the heart of those thoughts. Castro continued his search for a unifying center of the struggle by stating that "in this trial there is much more than the freedom of a single individual at stake. Fundamental matters of principle are being debated here," principles that clearly had their roots in the nineteenth century and in Martí.35

Throughout the early portion of the speech, Castro made references to the Orientales, or rebels from Oriente, the province where all the major revolt movements had originated. He also referred frequently to the war of 1895, pointing to the similarities between "that glorious epic" and the current struggle.36 The "ancestral aspirations of justice" inspired and "moved" the current rebellion.37 The "land of Martí" was repeatedly proclaimed to be the "bulwark of liberty" and "not a shameful link in the chain of despotism."38 Cuba's problems could "be solved only if we dedicate ourselves to fight for it with the same energy, honesty and patriotism our liberators had when they founded it."39 Martí was chief among these liberators and seen as central to the plan of reform:

[A] revolutionary government would undertake the integral reform of the educational system, bringing it into line with the projects just mentioned with the idea of educating those generations which will have the privilege of living in a happier land. Do not forget the words of the Apostle: "a grave mistake is being made in Latin America: in countries that live almost completely from the produce of the land, men are being educated exclusively for urban life and are not trained for farm life." "The happiest country is the one which has best educated its sons, both in the instruction of thought and the direction of their feelings." "An educated country will always be strong and free."40

These references to Martí were early antecedents to the establishment of literacy programs in Cuba that are still arguably among the best in the world.41 Part of the early definition of the proposed society was built around this notion of providing a fair means of education for all, a philosophy that would help to ensure equality and opportunity. This attitude, first expressed by Martí, and echoed by Castro, arose out of Martí's plea in "Our America" for a return to an autonomous history that would meet the needs of rural Latin Americans rather than urban, aristocratic Europeans. In the same way that Martí sought to throw off the influence of Spain and Europe, Castro primed his own vision of an autonomous and integrated system of education. The clarity and consistency of this goal provided one of the causes to unite behind and certainly contributed to a definition of what the new society would look like.

The specifics of this education system should be outlined at greater length in the later Program Manifesto, but in this speech, Castro used the theme of education as a lead-in to the subject of revolutionary ideals in general. He referred to Martí's "path where duty lies" and indicated that the young men who died at Moncada were driven by this idealized sense of duty. At this point in the speech, Castro made a slight distinction between the present movement and past movements, or at least past politicians. He denied that the Movement had accepted money from anti-Batista candidates (in the last campaign prior to Batista's coup), and he added that "this Movement is a new Cuban generation with its own ideas, rising up against tyranny."42 He also pointed to the significance of the earlier demonstration during the Martí Centennial parade, suggesting that the youth of the country were educating themselves about the roots of Cuba's past and not relying on the historical interpretations of more recent political pretenders.

In fact, in Castro's rhetorical construction, Martí became the site of struggle, an intellectual property sought by Batista and by Batista's enemies. Castro confronted Batista's misuse of Cuba's history directly:

Chronicles of our history, down through four and a half centuries, tell us of many acts of cruelty: the slaughter of defenseless Indians by the Spaniards; the plundering and atrocities of pirates along the coast; the barbarities of the Spanish soldiers during our War of Independence: the shooting of prisoners of the Cuban Army by the forces of Weyler; the horrors of the Machado regime, and so on through the bloody crimes of March, 1935. But never has such a sad and bloody page been written in numbers of victims and in the viciousness of the victimizers, as in Santiago de Cuba. Only one man in all these centuries has stained with blood two separate periods of our history and has dug his claws into the flesh of two generations of Cubans to release this river of blood; he waited for the Centennial of the Apostle, just after the fiftieth anniversary of the Republic whose people fought for freedom, human rights and happiness at the cost of so many lives.43

Of course, the "one man" who has achieved the pinnacle of tyranny in Cuban history was Batista himself. In this passage, Castro effectively crafted an association between Batista and a kind of anti-traditional authority. The link was accomplished by claiming that Batista had overthrown the traditional government twice in the last fifty years and that he had never had any legitimate authority other than pure force.44Association of the authentic Cuban tradition with the ideals of the Republic, the Constitution, and Martí placed Batista in direct opposition to everything good in Cuban history. Any claim that Batista made to that history or to Martí himself (such as hosting the Centennial celebration) was therefore a false claim: the Apostle belongs to the people. In fact, this sentiment was expressed in no uncertain terms. Batista was the one man to "stain with blood" two periods of Cuba's history and to "d[i]g his claws into the flesh of two generations." In addition to these atrocities, he "waited for the Centennial of the Apostle" to do these things in a deliberate attempt to link himself to Martí; to Castro, this was the greatest travesty of all.

Again, Castro's reading of events here was not in total conformity with his earlier opinions about Batista's influence prior to the Centennial. Instead of trying to depict an overall account of events leading up to the revolt, Castro's strategy was synchronic, freezing particular moments in time, adding drama to his interpretation, and advancing the teleology that all of Cuban history had led to the moment of this revolt. Using Santí's imagery, if Castro portrayed himself as the figure for Martí, in the same way that Christ may be seen as a fulfillment of Moses, then Batista was made into an anti-Christ for the Cuban world, appearing at the historically appropriate moment in which Castro was preparing his horsemen of the Apocalypse for the final battle. Castro's vision even included a resurrection scene when the dead of Moncada would rise and take their revenge:

Many solitary spots became the graveyards of the brave. . . . [S]ome day these men will be disinterred. Then they will be carried on the shoulders of the people to a place beside the tomb of Martí, and their liberated land will surely erect a monument to honor the memory of the Martyrs of the Centennial.45

By singling out particular images of Martí and of the Moncada attack, Castro painted the Cuban tradition as a populist tradition, drawing connections across the various historical periods. By threading together principles that formed a statement of that tradition, he again emphasized Batista's rule as a counter-statement.

The spiritual imagery indicated by Santí and illustrated here is further developed in Castro's references to the spiritual qualities of the Cuban tradition and the ensuing revolutionary struggle:

What is more, my comrades are neither dead nor forgotten; they live today, more than ever, and their murderers will view with dismay the victorious spirit of their ideas that rises from their corpses. Let the Apostle speak for me: "There is a limit to the tears we can shed at the graveside of the dead. Such limit is the infinite love for the homeland and its glory, a love that never falters, loses hope nor grows dim. For the graves of the martyrs are the highest altars of our reverence."46

Castro's choice of quotations from Martí added his-torical weight to his tribute to the dead and to their cause. The following poem written by Martí was also offered in tribute. It is particularly evocative of the spiritual release that honorable death brings:

When one dies
In the arms of a grateful country
Agony ends, prison chains break—and
At last, with death, life begins!


These references to Martí contributed to the evolving definition of a movement that was to go far beyond the memorialization of the dead at Moncada. In fact, Castro had confronted the problem of theory and practice, the melding of ideal and action. The action, the Moncada attack, had grown from the ideals of Martí, an action that subsequently catalyzed the development of other ideals. The cause was redefined in the revolutionary action and the need for more action clearly spelled out, literally demonstrated by loss of life on both sides. Sacrifice created hope, and hope would break "the chains" of imprisonment. Thus, part of the definition of the struggle was the inevitability of conflict, recalling Martí's call for "guerrilla warfare" and the concept of the "necessary war."

In the closing moments of the speech, Castro reiterated the theme of duty and the moral imperatives that served as the charge for duty. In doing so, he called on all the early heroes of Cuba's struggle, including Martí:

We are Cubans and to be Cuban implies a duty, not to fulfill that duty is a crime, is treason. We are proud of the history of our country; we learned it in school and have grown up hearing of freedom, justice and human rights. We were taught to venerate the glorious example of our heroes and martyrs. Céspedes, Agramonte, Maceo, Gómez, and Martí were the first names engraved in our minds.48

Not only were their names engraved in the minds of the Cuban people, but so were the principles they espoused. Among the principles were duty, education, and the right to rebel:

We were taught that for the guidance of Cuba's free citizens, the Apostle wrote in his book The Golden Age: "The man who abides by unjust laws and permits any man to trample and mistreat the country in which he was born, is not an honorable man.". . . In the world there must be a certain degree of honor just as there must be a certain amount of light.49

Castro continued to illuminate the path to honor with the words of Martí:

"When there are many men without honor, there are always others who bear in themselves the honor of many men. These are the men who rebel with great force against those who steal the people's freedom, that is to say, against those who steal human honor itself."50

Finally, Martí (through Fidel) described the symbolic quality of rebellion: "In those men thousands more are contained, an entire people is contained, human dignity is contained."51 The narrative tribute to Moncada was significant, or made significant, because of and through Martí. That is, Castro argued that the present exists only because of the past. The very purpose of Moncada and the coming revolution was to keep the past alive:

It seemed that the Apostle would die during his Centennial. It seemed that his memory would be extinguished forever. So great was the affront! But he is alive; he has not died. His people are rebellious. His people are worthy. His people are faithful to his memory.52

The memory that lived on, being reborn at Moncada, was a spiritual memory of a shared history, the realization of which was actualized and made material by rebellion. Castro concluded his tribute to Martí by directly tying Moncada to the Apostle's dream. How have Cubans kept Martí alive? Castro provided the answer: "There are Cubans who have fallen defending his doctrines. There are young men who in magnificent selflessness came to die beside his tomb, giving their blood and their lives so that he could keep on living in the heart of his nation."53 Closing this section of the speech with the admonition, "Cuba, what would have become of you had you let your Apostle die?" Castro provided the basis for his final argument. He did not fear prison, or Batista. Why does his condemnation mean nothing? Because "history would absolve" him; he had shown that it already had.


Martí was a prominent feature of "History Will Absolve Me," Castro's most important speech from the early days of the revolutionary struggle. Martí was referenced in a variety of ways. At this stage in the revolution, Martí functioned as a kind of catalyst that helped to bring the principles and ideals of the struggle into focus. Because Castro employed narrative and the overall theme of Cuban history, the use of Martí was made to seem natural and entirely appropriate. References to Martí, as a personage and ideologue, gave sufficient support to the themes of duty to one's country, the need for educational reforms, the right to rebel, and the need for unification.

While Martí was made the basis for these themes, he was also used as a polar opposite to Batista. If Martí was the center of Cuba's past, then Batista represented the center of Cuba's dismal present. Although Martí had been dead for almost sixty years, Castro managed to place him in an almost direct debate with Batista. If Batista supported a policy, then surely it must run against the current of Cuban history, a history that was most adeptly articulated in the work of José Martí. The elevation of Martí to a position of sainthood only drew attention to Batista's descent into hell. The Movement itself became dependent upon this hatred of the dictator and on the return to a more just time, whether or not such a glorious period ever really existed. In effect, Martí's vision was created as a kind of idealized reality in Castro's discourse, a reality to be pursued.

It is important here to recall again some of the objections raised by Santí, Carlos Ripoll, and others. Was Castro's vision of Martí really Martí's or was it Castro's alone? Obviously, Castro's view of history was a rhetorical construction, as all histories are, and it does not represent actual conditions that existed prior to Batista. Castro appealed to Cuba's past, and to Martí, on a spiritual level in an attempt to define the essence of a people. The conflict between a perceived actuality and the emotive vision depicted in Castro's discourse is a gap that will be seen repeatedly throughout his speaking career and is a subject that will be returned to in later chapters.

After Moncada

Despite the positive response to "History Will Absolve Me," which was circulated as a pamphlet throughout Cuba, Castro remained imprisoned until May of 1955. In prison, Castro voraciously read the works of Martí, Marx, and Lenin and anything else that was available to him. The Isle of Pines imprisonment gave him time to refine his plans for revolution and simply to grow intellectually in his purpose. Most of what we know about his growth during this time is through his own accounts and through many letters that he wrote while in prison. Because many of these letters contained references to Martí's ideas as seen in relation to Castro's growing interest in Marxism, they will be more fully discussed in the next chapter. One reference, in particular, however, bears on Castro's view of history and Martí's place in it. In a letter written in January 1954, Castro speculated on the role of leaders in history:

Human thought is undoubtedly conditioned by the circumstances of an age. Thinking about a political genius now, I would dare to assert that he depends exclusively on his age. Lenin in the age of Catherine the Great, when the aristocracy was the dominating class, would have been a bold defender of the bourgeoisie, which was then the revolutionary class, or he would have been swallowed up in history; Martí, if he had lived when the English took Havana, would have fought alongside his father in defense of the Spanish flag.54

The letter suggested that leaders like Lenin and Martí had a universal quality that would remain constant had they lived in other historical epochs. Though they may have supported different groups, their positioning against the oppressor would have been the same. The letter also implied that Castro and Martí lived under similar conditions. The layers had changed—instead of Spain, Cuba was dominated by U.S. interests and Cuban aristocrats—but the struggle was the same. The essence of Martí, and of Castro at this time, was the spirit of nationalism, not any one particular ideological perspective.

It is interesting to note that the Cuban press also associated Martí with the Movement during this period. According to Thomas:

[T]here were certain bomb explosions, presumably let off by students or by the 26 July Movement, in Santiago. Six people were injured. Newspapers such as Diario de la Marina and Información denounced these activities: "We cannot permit the Martían gestures just started to fail without making ourselves accomplices of an unpardonable civil cowardliness."55

Of course, the "Martían gestures" became more and more frequent as the Movement began to gain strength. Castro was exiled to Mexico in 1955 and wasted no time in building a plan to reenter Cuba, which he did, along with a small force of revolutionaries, in 1956. This began a period of long and sporadic guerrilla skirmishes in the Sierra Maestra, a period that was highlighted by numerous reports of Castro's death.

The Program Manifesto

The most important and explicit document to come out of the Movement at this time was the Program Manifesto of the July 26th Movement, which was written after Castro returned from Mexico.56 It was strongly influenced by Castro but actually penned by Mario Llerena.57 The statement was a development of both the Moncada Manifesto and the five-point plan outlined in "History Will Absolve Me." It also made explicit links between Martí and the revolution.

The manifesto began by stating the aim of the July 26th Movement: "to take up the unfulfilled ideals of the Cuban nation and to realize them."58 What were the sources of those ideals? In paragraph 2, the revolution declared itself "a continuation of the revolutionary generations of the past."59 Batista was referred to as an "anti-Cuban power" and certainly an obstacle standing in the way of this continuation. Again, in a section entitled "The Necessary War," Batista was referred to as a "spurious power that today blocks and frustrates Cuba's destiny" and one who "presents features similar to or worse than those of the colonial past."60 The movement was then as justifiable, "perhaps more so, as it was in 1869 or 1895."61 The Apostle himself provided this justification:

We are resuming the unfinished Cuban Revolution. That is why we preach the same "necessary war" of José Martí for exactly the same reasons he proclaimed it: against the regressive ills of the colony, against the sword that shelters tyrants, against corrupt and rapacious politicians, against the merchants of our national economy. We fight against the ills produced by that sorrowful amalgam.62

The ills of colonization are replaced by the Martían goal of attaining a "true and worthy nation within the American community of nations" with a "just and functional democracy" and an "independent and productive economy."63 Just as Martí earlier condemned the cultural, political, and economic stagnation that colonization produced, the manifesto reiterated that sentiment.

After providing justification for rebellion, the manifesto traced the unique Cuban history of revolution. A key issue in this section was the relations among "three great political forces" in the development of Cuba: Spanish, Cuban, and North American.64 The author described this triangle of relationships as possessed of a "reciprocal action" that contributed to a unique "Cuban consciousness."65 As each period of that consciousness was traced throughout the decades, references were made to the "martyrs" of the nineteenth century and to the "unfinished Revolution." Furthermore, the "true revolution" was distinguished from the many fragmentary groups that have failed to unite Cuba. Even Martí's party, an earlier version of the Cuban Revolutionary party (PRC), was seen as a "simple structure exclusively created for the immediate necessities of the Revolution."66 It followed that the current movement was designed for the special necessities of its day, though still firmly based on Martí. Again, the link to the past featured the person and ideals of Martí, instead of the specific formulation of policies and political practices.

After this discussion of the historical basis for revolution, the manifesto provided an outline of the doctrine of the revolution, as it entered its "constructive phase." In this section, Martí's words were used as clear instructions for proposed policies or at least the principles behind those proposals.

The aims of the revolution were defined as "(1) a free and sovereign fatherland, (2) a democratic republic, (3) an independent economy, and (4) a culture of its own."67 Immediately the manifesto tied these aims to the ideology of Martí as the section on ideology began with the following quotation from Martí: 'A Constitution is a lively and practical law that cannot be constructed with ideological precepts.'68 In a development of Castro's earlier call for a return to the written 1940 Constitution, the manifesto provided a looser definition of the term constitution, claiming that such constituting principles reside in the "particular circumstances of the people and country" and should "not be something imported from other places."69Equality became a key term in this constitutional structure, a notion stated in the proclamation of the Ten Years War in 1869 and "later maintained in the Montecristi Manifesto [of 1895], and in all the documents and Constitutions of the Republic." Nationalism and social justice were identified as crucial terms in the Cuban Constitution.

As a lead-in to the manifesto's ten-point plan for the revolutionary government, Martí was explicitly given credit as the author of these principles:

In summary, the 26th of July Movement declares that the above-stated principles emanate from the political thought of José Martí, who once stated that the essential principle was that of the full dignity of man. All human relations—fatherland, politics, economy, education—converge at that point. In that position, in the following of Martí's ideas, the philosophical base of our struggle must be found.70

This philosophical base was made somewhat more concrete by listing the ten-point plan. Each point started with a quotation from Martí followed by a short explication of the proposed reform. Point 1 dealt with the issue of national sovereignty: "If the family of American republics have a specific function it is not to be servants of any other."71 Martí's words were then explicated using more technical terminology:

The first objective of the Revolution, therefore, is to assert the full sovereignty of Cuba. This condition is officially recognized in terms of international politics, especially since the abrogation of the Platt Amendment in 1934. But Cuba still suffers from a situation which, although not direct political intervention, constitutes essential violations of its sovereignty. . . . Sovereignty is perfectly compatible with the ideal of continental and universal fraternity. In fact, it is an indispensable condition and guarantee of the cordial relations and peaceful coexistance of nations and governments.72

Although the tone of the explanation was much different from Martí's, one can still see the influence of his attitudes about the United States, which he referred to as the Great Octopus to the North. Also, there was some backtracking toward the end of the passage—a warning that nationalism must not undermine Martí's view of a unified Latin America. The last two sentences served as a qualifier on the strength of the harshly nationalistic stance.

Point 2 continued in a similar vein, with another quotation from Martí, on the subject of economic independence: "The only fruitful and lasting peace and freedom are those accomplished by one's own effort."73 Effort was interpreted to mean economic effort and freedom, defined as "the investment in the country of the greatest possible percentage of nationally produced profits."74 In this explanation of economic strategy, the language was beginning to sound vaguely Marxian:

When, for some reason or other, the majority of the profits goes abroad, this is superseded by a mathematical disequilibrium of the monetary reserves and the subsequent tendency to subordination and impoverishment. In such cases the means of production are not developed according to the national interest, but according to the convenience of the exploiting private capital.75

The translation of Martí's more general language into specific socialist economic analysis is another foreshadowing of the kind of sanctioning use taken up in the next chapter. However, a definitional function is also served in that Marxist-influenced concepts are seen to merge with Martían principles even at this early stage.

The combination of Marx and Martí was also evident in Point 3 : "The general happiness of a people depends on the individual independence of its inhabitants."76 Independence in work was defined as "a factor indispensable for production and national unity" and "an integral part of the production process."77 The emphasis on labor and capital in the following passage also showed Marxist influence:

[O]nce labor is defined as an integral part of the production process, class conflicts with regard to capital will cease or decline to an extraordinary degree. In this manner, elevating the functional importance of "labor," and limiting the privileges of "capital," we will reach a state of solidarity and harmony between the two which considerably will increase productivity and will benefit everyone.78

This interpretation, even the language used, was distinctly dissimilar to Martí's longing for "individual independence" and "general happiness."

The manifesto also featured an interest in a new social organization in point 4: "We must impede the distortion or exploitation of Cuba's interests by the interests of one group, the excessive authority of a military or civil organization, a given region, or of one race over another."79 If the discussion of economic matters on the second and third points above seemed to be loosely connected to Martí, the fourth point was analyzed more directly in Martían terms:

The 26th of July Movement takes its ideas with respect to social problems from Martí. Its ideal about this is the organic unity of the nation. According to this concept, no group, class, race or religion should sacrifice the common good to benefit its particular interest, nor can it remain aloof from the problems of the entire social order or one of its parts.80

The theme of national integration was highlighted in the proposed system of reform, a priority very similar to the one expressed in Martí's call for racial unity in the Steck Hall speech. The racial and cultural makeup of Cuba had historically been an important part of its legacy, one that many Cuban leaders viewed as a key theme for political success.81

Pan-Americanism was also influential in the manifesto's discussion of educational reforms in point 5: "The measure of responsibility is related to the extent of one's education.82 In the beginning of Martí's essay "Our America," he chided Latin Americans who did not stand up for themselves and who allowed themselves to be lured away from their culture by the luxuries and individualism of other cultures.83 The linking of responsibility to education was a logical theme for the leaders of the movement to pick up because it was so compatible with the formation of a new social system. From this general notion of citizenship the manifesto proclaimed four areas for their educational plan to pursue: cultural education, vocational education, civic education, and national education.84 Such a broad understanding admitted that "education cannot be simply reduced to a pedagogic technique," and that it was a building block of "national fulfillment" in general. After the fall of Batista in 1959, the revolutionary government made education and literacy its highest priorities with a great degree of success.85

The next two points were more polemical; Point 6,entitled "Politics," stated that "to govern is to direct national forces in such a manner as to allow each man to fulfill himself in a dignified way, and to make good use of public prosperity."86 The topics of politics and civil authority were used as platforms for the criticism of current practices, rather than for a clear enunciation of proposed plans. The current political system was debased, and principal causes were outlined:

Political parties without doctrine, immoral politicians, personalism, the low level of civic consciousness among the masses, abstentionist neutralism; and all their consequences, such as: electoral mercantilism, the mocking of elections, police power, military hegemony, providentialism, and dictatorship.87

Beyond the ironies evident in this list (military hegemony, the mocking of elections) were societal wrongs that the new political power would have to eradicate. Chief among these ills was the misuse of military force. A democratic system could not be based on military strength alone but on civil authority and public involvement. The sources for this stand included the Declaration of Independence, the French Rights of Man declaration and the Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations. Of course, Cuba's founders had established their own history of civil authority as well:

The founders of the fatherland always were, by conviction and temperament, profoundly civilian-oriented. Céspedes, Aguilera, Agramonte, Gómez, Maceo, García, Sanguily, Varona, Martí. . . . [e]ven those like Gómez and Maceo, who won in innumerable laurels on the battlefront, were men who subordinated their authority to civilian leaders. . . . The October 10, 1868 Proclamation, the Montecristi Manifesto, the base of the Partido Revolucionario Cubano, and the Constitutions of Guaimaro, Jimaguayu and La Yaya are filled with the civilian outlook which shaped the formation of Cuba at every moment.88

Military "police-power" was heartily condemned by the July 26th Movement because it had returned the nation to a "very primitive political level."89 The call for democracy inherent in this condemnation was a call for a genuine change from totalitarianism. The nature and specific form of that democracy were not carefully specified, however.

Point 8 introduced a definition of freedom that seemed to be compatible with both individualism and collectivism: "Freedom is the right every man has to be honest and to think and speak without hypocrisy."90 Freedom of conscience meant the separation of church and state to the author of the manifesto, a point not directly asserted in the quote from Martí. The manifesto simply stated that Martí's view was opposed to state religion announcing that "on this matter, the 26th of July Movement adopts and proclaims the ideas of Martí, declaring that it will fight at all times for those conditions which would make the principle of freedom of conscience effective. In political terms this means a secular state."91

Curiously, points 9 (Public Morality) and 10 (International Position) did not reference Martí directly at all, though the views presented in them seemed to accord with Martí's thoughts about outside influence and the United States. The principle of "constructive friendship" espoused was consistent with pan-Americanism and, in this instance, included the U.S. as part of "Our America." On the issue of relations with the United States, the manifesto called for "mutual respect, particularly in the economic and cultural areas."92

The Program Manifesto, though not a specific outline of exact methods for carrying out proposed programs, was the most advanced statement yet of the principles of the revolutionary party, taking Castro's earlier speech several steps further. Like "History Will Absolve Me," the manifesto was a philosophical statement that clearly, bluntly, and explicitly claimed José Martí as its founding author. Martí was used to define what it meant to be a revolutionary and, indeed, to be a Cuban. The manifesto elaborated Castro's view of the Apostle; it made him the documentary source for revolutionary principles.

A Movement Defined

Michael McGee has written that a movement often depends on the rhetorical creation of a unified people and that successful creation of this concept is a factor in the advancement of a movement from a stage of dormancy to the more active stages of problem solving and action.93 In the case of the Cuban revolution, Castro succeeded in providing a suitable vision of and for the Cuban people, and in doing so, he achieved the central position that he was seeking. One of the most powerful techniques employed by Castro in the formative years of the movement was his use of José Martí to write a new history for Cuba. The various references to Martí early in the movement helped to define the particular goals of the movement (racial unity, education, political autonomy) and to unify Cubans behind a single cause, a cause inspired by their history.

Castro's rewriting of Cuban history was an important element in the advancement of the movement. Not only did it provide the movement with a leadership figure who was similar to Martí; it also helped to enumerate goals and principles that gave generalized concerns more specific shape. Historians of the revolution agree that by the mid-1950s, Castro was the leading figure in the revolution, and the July 26th Movement the spearhead organization of the growing revolution. Though it is difficult to prove which events, speeches, and documents contributed most to the success of the Movement, it is likely that the Moncada attack, "History Will Absolve Me," and the Program Manifesto were the primary influences on the development of a unified revolutionary force. By projecting Martí's persona into Cuba's present and future, Castro's vision succeeded in giving the Movement a familiar and stable definition, one that created the climate for unification and advancement.

As noted, the employment of Martí also had implications for the relation between theory and practice in a revolutionary society. The close association of Martí with the goals of a late struggle helps us to understand how theoretical concepts can serve as impetuses to the formulation of specific policies and lead, eventually, to the implementation of those policies, a point taken up in Chapter 4. It is already clear, though, that for Cuba Martí became part of the intelligentsia that Lenin conceptualized. Castro repositioned Martí among the current intellectual avant-garde of the nation, and, as such, his words and ideas were as important to the beginning of the movement as Castro's own.

Finally, we can see how Martí's authority was rhetorically transferred to Castro. In effect, Martí embodied a traditional type of authority that was already respected and admired by most Cubans. Castro skillfully tapped that source of traditional authority and, by codifying Martí's positions, gave that authority a specific form. Furthermore, Castro's use of Martí borrowed charisma associated with Martí's name. Of course, Castro possessed a great deal of charisma himself, and much of his reputation was based on his own actions. But, initially, at least, Castro bolstered his own presence by the close association with Martí, a martyr who already had a kind of cult following.

Castro's early use of Martí helped to establish the character of the revolution, and though he repeatedly compared it to other periods of struggle, it clearly developed its own unique flavor and set of purposes. In the following chapters, we will explore the various ways in which that character continued to develop, including the use of Martí at later stages to help advance particular goals and ultimately to preserve the future of the revolution.


1 Tad Szulc, Fidel: A Critical Portrait (New York: William Morrow, 1986) 153.

2 Ibid., 92.

3 Marta Harnecker, Fidel Castro's Political Strategy: From Moncada to Victory (New York: Pathfinder Press, 1987), 8.

4 Enrico Santí, "José Martí and the Cuban Revolution," José Martí and the Cuban Revolution Retraced (Los Angeles: UCLA Latin American Center Publications, 1986), 16.

5 Ibid., 17.

6 Frei Betto, Fidel and Religion: Castro Talks on Revolution and Religion with Frei Betto (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1987), 143.

7 Lee Lockwood, Castro's Cuba, Cuba's Fidel (New York: Macmillan, 1967), 141.

8 Hugh Thomas, The Cuban Revolution (1971, New York: Harper & Row, 1977), 21.

9 Ibid.

10 Ibid., 32.

11 Ibid., 40.

12 Ibid., 49.

13 Szulc, Fidel: A Critical Portrait, 261.

14 Ibid., 237.

15 Jules Dubois, Fidel Castro: Rebel Liberator or Dictator? (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1959), 31.

16 Santí's article is more fully discussed in Chapter 2. Basically, he is arguing that the teleological perspective presents a distorted view of Martí.

17 Dubois, Fidel Castro, 33.

18 Ibid., 33.

19 The theme of martyrdom is an interesting one in Castro's discourse. There are many examples of Castro linking the martyrdom of Martí, and other early leaders, to someone like Santamaría and, of course, Che Guevara.

20 Dubois, Fidel Castro, 34-35.

21 Ibid., 35.

22 Ibid.

23 Thomas, The Cuban Revolution, 47.

24 Fidel Castro, "History Will Absolve Me," History Will Absolve Me: Fidel's Courtroom Speech in His Own Defense, Oct. 16, 1953 (New York: Center for Cuban Studies), 1.

25 Ibid., 11.

26 Ibid., 59-60.

27 Ibid.

28 Ibid., 45-46.

29 Ibid., 46.

30 Again, Santí objects to the strong connection between Moncada and the "spirit of Martí." Santí, José Martí," 14.

31 Castro, "History Will Absolve Me," 25-26.

32 Ibid., 4.

33 Ibid., 5.

34 Ibid., 8.

35 Ibid., 9.

36 Ibid., 22.

37 Ibid., 23.

38 Ibid., 26.

39 Ibid., 30.

40 Ibid., 32.

41 Juan M. Del Aguila, Cuba: Dilemmas of a Revolution (Boulder, CO: Westview Profiles, 1984). Not a Castro supporter, del Aguila concedes at several points in his book that the revolution has been successful in its goal of improving literacy in Cuba.

42 Castro, "History Will Absolve Me," 33.

43 Ibid., 38.

44 As suggested in Chapter 1, authority based on pure force is a rarity. One could certainly do an analysis of Batista's persuasive powers that allowed him to commandeer military force.

45 Castro, "History Will Absolve Me," 41.

46 Ibid., 48.

47 Ibid.

48 Ibid., 65.

49 Ibid., 66.

50 Ibid.

51 Ibid.

52 Ibid.

53 Ibid.

54 Fidel Castro, "Prison Letters," in Carlos Franqui, Family Portrait with Fidel: A Memoir, trans. Alfred MacAdam (New York: Vintage Books, 1984), 238.

55 Thomas, The Cuban Revolution, 86.

56 del Aguila, Cuba: Dilemmas of a Revolution, 34.

57 Program Manifesto of the 26th of July Movement, in Rolando Bonachea and Nelson Valdés, Cuba in Revolution (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1972), 113.

58 Ibid., 116.

59 Ibid.

60 Ibid.

61 Ibid.

62 Ibid., 115.

63 Ibid., 117.

64 Ibid.

65 Ibid.

66 Ibid., 122.

67 Ibid., 127.

68 Ibid.

69 Ibid., 128.

70 Ibid., 129.

71 Ibid., 130.

72 Ibid.

73 Ibid., 131.

74 Ibid.

75 Ibid.

76 Ibid.

77 Ibid., 132.

78 Ibid.

79 Ibid.

80 Ibid.

81 Especially in the work of Nicolás Guillén, Cuba's national poet Also a theme in the work of historical novelist Miguel Barnet.

82 Program Manifesto, 133.

83 See Chapter 2.

84 Program Manifesto, 133.

85 See del A guila, Cuba: Dilemmas of a Revolution. Also see Nelson Valdés, "The Radical Transformation of Cuban Education," Cuba in Revolution; and Thomas, The Cuban Revolution.

86 Program Manifesto, 134-35.

87 Ibid., 135.

88 Ibid., 136.

89 Ibid.

90 Ibid.

91 Ibid., 137.

92 Ibid., 139.

93 Michael McGee, "In Search of 'the People': A Rhetorical Alternative," Quarterly Journal of Speech 61, 3 (Oct. 1975): 236-51. Also see Don Rice, "Castro's Early Rhetoric: The Myth of the Savior," Visions of Rhetoric: History, Theory, and Criticism, ed. Charles Kneupper (Arlington, TX: Rhetoric Society of America, 1987).

Agnes I. Lugo-Ortiz (essay date 1995)

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Last Updated on June 7, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 6479

SOURCE: "'En un rincón de la Florida': Exile and Nationality in José Martí's Biographical Chronicles in Patria," in José Martí in the United States: The Florida Experience, edited by Louis A. Pérez, Jr., Arizona State University Center for Latin American Studies, 1995, pp. 9-21.

[In the following essay, Lugo-Ortiz argues that Martí's biographical chronicles in the newspaper Patria presented ideals of citizenship and heroic behavior for Cuban readers to emulate.]

There is an anecdote about the 1895 Cuban war of independence that narrates how, after winning one of the battles, Antonio Maceo's troops seized a printing press from the Spanish army. At the time, the revolutionary army did not have sufficient ammunition, and it had hardly any artillery. The soldiers went to Maceo in order to show him the press, and when the Bronze Titan saw it he exclaimed: "This is the artillery of the revolution!" With this press he started the publication of one of the revolutionary newspapers, El cubano libre. Although they did not have enough military armaments, they did have the argument of writing.2

This is an extremely telling anecdote insofar as it reveals the relationship between writing and violence: the place of writing vis-à-vis a deadly struggle for power, the power of writing as a weapon and, above all, the consciousness of the revolutionary leadership about the role of writing and texts in the struggle for constructing and politically controlling reality. Journalism was, indeed, one of the weapons used throughout the wars of 1868-1878, as an organ of communication and of ideological propaganda; but later on, before the beginning of the 1895 war, journalism also functioned as an instrument of prefiguration for the resumption of the war—the resumption of violence. One of the aims of revolutionary journalism, in the years before the beginning of the 1895 war, was to define the meaning and limits of revolutionary violence as well as to define the character and form of the desired independent national state.

In 1892, from his exile in New York City, and as part of the preparation for the war, José Martí founded the newspaper Patria. Initially, Patria was an independent publication of Cubans in exile, but later on it became the official organ of the Partido Revolucionario Cubano (Cuban Revolutionary Party). In its statement of purpose, written by Martí and published in the first issue of the newspaper, it was established that:

Es criminal quien ve ir al país a un conflicto que la provocación fomenta y la desesperación favorece, y no prepara, o ayuda a preparar, el país para el conflicto. Y el crimen es mayor cuando se conoce por la experiencia previa, que el desorden de la preparación puede acarrear la derrota del patriotismo más glorioso, o poner en la patria triunfante los gérmenes de la disolución definitiva. El que no ayuda hoy a preparar la guerra, ayuda a disolver el país [...] .

Nace este periódico, a la hora del peligro, para velar por la libertad, para contribuir a que sus fuerzas sean invencibles por la unión, y para evitar que el enemigo nos vuelva a vencer por nuestro desorden.3

The previous passage states what the power of writing is in the preparation, regulation and control of violence—writing is the instrument with which to found and prefigure an order. Language (writing, talking) is not proposed as an antagonistic mode to the exercise of violence. Rather writing and language are the rational dimensions of violence. Following Paul Ricoeur, violence speaks, and through speaking it strives to negate itself as violence, establishing a meaning that may legitimize it and transforms this violence into something else:

Speech, discussion, and rationality also draw their unity of meaning from the fact that they are an attempt to reduce violence. A violence that speaks is already trying to be right: it is a violence that places itself in the orbit of reason and that already is beginning to negate itself as violence.4

One of Martí's greatest concerns and fears was that the revolutionary forces would again be as disorganized and internally divided as they were during the Ten Years War (1868-1878).5 On the other hand, Martí was also afraid of the possibility of the military leadership becoming dictatorial. For him, the republican order had to be fostered from the center of the military actions. The war had to be conducted in a democratic/civilian fashion in order to prevent an independent Cuba from repeating the patterns of many Latin American republics, which became dictatorial/caudillista states after independence and during a great part of the nineteenth century. Patria was thus conceived as an instrument of control and discipline, a place to debate and to prefigure a new civilian order in the midst of military preparation. The newspaper put forward, and discussed the programmatic bases of the Cuban Revolutionary Party, in addition to disseminating news related to the political situation of the island and about the progress of the revolutionary organizations in the émigré community. In Patria, Martí also published many biographical chronicles through which he aimed to formulate the archetype of the Cuban national subject or being: to define the civilian subject for the war, as well as the citizen for the republican independent state. Biography was both an instrument for defining the behavior in war and peace, and for organizing peace within the war.


Between 1892 and 1895 Martí published around fifty biographical chronicles in Patria. These included necrologies, reports on visits to the émigré centers by prominent figures who participated in the 1868 war (as a sort of letter of introduction) and memoirs about the actions of certain men in the war. These chronicles represented some of the most outstanding revolutionary figures of the 1868 war, such as Ignacio Agramonte, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Antonio Maceo, Máximo Gómez and others. But apart from these leaders, Martí also included many minor figures from the émigré community. Through his biographical writing, Martí proposed new protagonists for Cuban history as well as new definitions of "heroism". In this way his texts reformulated many of the paradigms that, until then, had guided dominant understandings of "the Cuban national being."

Martí's redefinitions, as they were conveyed in these texts of the 1890s, had antecedents in his own literary production. In 1871, shortly before Martí's first exile in Madrid, he wrote two texts that could be considered his first exercises in biographical writing, "Castillo" and "El presidio político en Cuba."6 The aims of these texts were twofold: first, to fix a memory of Martí's own experiences in jail, and, second, to defend the Cuban independence cause while denouncing Spain's colonial policies.

In "Castillo," Martí narrated the oppression and humiliation suffered in the jail's quarry by a seventy-six-year-old Cuban peasant, Nicolás del Castillo, who was accused of being a brigadier of the revolutionary army by members of the conservative Spanish voluntary corps ("los voluntarios"). The other text, "El presidio pol#x00ED;tico," which is longer and structurally more complex than "Castillo," is divided into two parts. The first part is an allegorical representation of Spain's political relationships with America and Cuba. The second part of the text is organized in a succession of semi-biographical scenes, similar to literary cameos. The scenes narrate the life experience in jail of the elderly man Nicolás del Castillo, a twelve-year-old peasant boy called Lino Figueredo, a mentally ill African man called Juan de Dios and others whose lives in jail are narrated in an even briefer fashion.

In these texts, Martí does not represent the revolution's greatest military heroes. On the contrary, these leaders are not even mentioned, producing a narrative in which the war appears to be of a sacrificial nature. Unlike the revolutionary military men, whose main attribute is their capacity to act, the victims of "El presidio político" are portrayed as lacking agency. They do not act, but are acted upon. Both texts construct the image of an uneven power relationship between the Spaniards and the Cubans, insofar as Martí's representation of his political project is based on the most precarious, vulnerable and marginal sectors of Cuban society: old age (Castillo), childhood (Lino Figueredo), slavery, blackness and madness (Juan de Dios).

"Castillo" and "El presidio político en Cuba" were originally published in the metropolis, in the Spanish liberal newspaper La soberanía nacional. They were fundamentally addressed to a peninsular audience in the wake of the 1868 liberal revolution. This peninsular context is inscribed in the texts themselves, inflecting their strategies of persuasion. These strategies represent the war waged by the Cubans not as an act of aggression against Spain but as an act of victimization (Cubans being the sacrificial victims). The texts proposed that, in order for liberal Spain to be consistent with its own political project, the Cuban conflict had to end with Spain recognizing the justice of and the unavoidable need for the island's independence.

But it would be reductionist to say that the selection of representative persons made by Martí in 1871 is simply a strategy for political persuasion. Later on, in 1892, from his exile in the United States—and addressing a Cuban émigré audience—Martí continued a similar selective pattern of marginal people. The question is: What are the historical conditions that made possible this mode of representation—a mode that significantly departed from the dominant paradigms of traditional historical and biographical writing up to that point?


Until the 1860s, the main characteristic of Cuban biographical writing was the celebration and heroicization of members of the wealthiest sugar-families on the island. The best example of this trend is a collection of literary portraits published by Antonio Bachiller y Morales in 1861 entitled La galería de hombres útiles.7 Bachiller was one of the most prominent and prestigious intellectual figures of nineteenth-century Cuba.

He has been crowned by some critics as the father of Cuban bibliographic studies, and, indeed, he was a modernizer committed to the task of constructing the national archive of knowledge. In his Galería, Bachiller celebrates the process of modernization that took place on the island during the first decades of the nineteenth century, stating that the great criollos and peninsular patricians were responsible for the country's economic and national development. Some examples of his "representative men" are Spanish-born governor Luis de las Casas and Cuban-born plantation-owner Francisco de Arango y Parreño. The former was partly responsible, among other things, for the increase in the slave trade with Cuba, aiming to provide a steady labor force for the sugar industry at the end of the eighteenth century; and the latter was one of the most powerful Cuban planter, as well as the main ideologue of his class, during the early nineteenth century. According to Bachiller's interpretation, white, slave-holding, and paradoxically modern, patrician statesmen were the protagonists and founders of Cuba's national history.

This conception of Cuba's national history would be shaken, although not completely displaced, during and after the Ten Years War. The 1868 revolution, which started as a movement guided by the small landowners from the eastern part of the island, eventually led to a significant redefinition of the Cuban national composite. As some historians have pointed out, at the beginning the criollo leaders of the insurrection needed the participation of slaves in order to advance the war efforts; but the participation of the slaves in the war was related, to a large extent, to the promise that the Republic would abolish slavery.8 By the end of the war, it seems that black slaves had the most compelling and concrete reason to continue the struggle: if not to fight for the liberty of a still abstract nation, to fight for their own personal liberty. Through the war, the political project of independence acquired different accents, increasingly taking the shape of a socio-economic reorganization. This meant that there were a series of new priorities for national independence, and in consequence, for the republican utopia as well. As Antonio Maceo stated "aquí no hay blanquitos, ni negritos, sino cubanos" [here there are neither whities, nor blackies, but Cubans].9 It is within this context that we may read Martí's biographical chronicles in Patria: within the context of a Cuba were the presuppositions about cubanhood were undergoing significant transformations, both discursively and in the concrete dynamics of society. Martí's first biographical sketches (1871) can be read as places where new cultural reconfigurations began first to appear; places/text where new socio-political alliances started to be proposed, affirmed and, eventually, consolidated, as we will see later, in the biographical chronicles of the 1890s.

As mentioned earlier, Martí conceived of Patria as a means to domesticate or tame the imminent violence of the war, as well as the dictatorial and antidemocratic potential of what he called with anguish "la guerra necesaria" (the necessary war). However, the newspaper also had other functions.

Benedict Anderson, in an important and ambitious book about the origins and development of nationalism on a global scale, Imagined Communities,10 has pointed out the role of journalism in creating and articulating an image of the nation. Anderson argues that, through the news, spaces distant from one's daily experience become part of a shared collective territory in an imaginary way. Journalism defines a territory and fills it with the density of an experience that is constructed as collective and pertinent to all the members of the nation. It also produces the sense of a shared contemporaneity. Patria emblematizes in its own name the cartographic drive of journalistic writing. But furthermore, the persistent presence of so many biographical chronicles in the pages of the newspaper can be read as a means to construct a sense of community among the Cubans dispersed in exile, and as an instrument to establish familiarities and commonalities.

Martí, in his campaign to organize Cubans politically in the émigré communities, as well as to raise funds for a new war, made several trips to the many émigré centers dispersed throughout the United States (Tampa, Key West, Jacksonville, New Orleans, New York and Philadelphia). The coordination of efforts for the revolution seemed to require the imaginary construction of a collective shared space: the construction of a second Cuba in exie. That Cuba (the absent Cuba, the Cuba of the emigrants) appears in Martí's writing as a vindicative space for the real Cuba (the Cuba that is materially and geographically concrete, but morally degraded). This is emblematized through a discursive device which frames the political struggle between an aquí (here) and an allí or an aliá (there):

¡A la patria que allí se cae a pedazos y se ha quedado ciega de la podre, hay que llevar la patria piadosa y previsora que aquí se levanta! A lo que queda de patria allí, mordido de todas partes por la gangrena que empieza a roer el corazón, hay que juntar la patria amiga donde hemos ido, acá en la soledad, acomodando el alma, con las manos firmes que pide el buen cariño, a las realidades todas, de afuera y de adentro. [ . . . ] Pues qué saben allá de esta noche gloriosa de resurrección, de la fe determinada y metódica de nuestros espíritus.11


The biographical chronicle put into circulation the image of diverse figures who were dispersed along different geographical points of the émigré community. In this way, the genre strived to create the familiarities required to foster a sense of community, both in terms of the imagined construction of a shared time and space, as well as in terms of a shared political utopia. The chronicles, as the word itself indicates, registered the passage of time and the advances made in the project of political unity; they recorded step by step the gradual integration of specific sectors of the émigré community into the revolutionary cause, represented by the particular individual whose biography was published. Indeed, a chronological reading of these texts would trace an analogous journey to the one made by Martí through the different exile centers, indicating the development of revolutionary clubs, the reintegration of the military leaders of the 1868 war into the new revolutionary efforts, and other significant events. Each biographical sketch is a landmark in an ascending curve.

Yet, these texts are much more than a mechanical diagram. One of the functions or aims of biographical writing was to define the image of the national being. The exemplary life of an individual metonymically became a site for formulating the image of the desired collective being. It presented to the community a model of behavior, a series of values in a nutshell. Biographical texts functioned as a means to prepare those Cubans in exile for "the necessary war," teaching them (through an example) a lesson on civilian values. These were the values to guide and tame the military aspect of the war, as well as to insure a civilian/democratic independent state. In Martí, civility is the central paradigm which defines the national order, the national soul or, as Martí would say, "the Cuban soul."

Indeed, it is precisely a chronicle by Martí entitled "El alma cubana" (The Cuban Soul) that best summarizes his biographical poetics. This chronicle was published on March 30, 1892, a few weeks after the publication of the first issue of Patria. From very early on, the newspaper made clear its project of constructing a new political subject. The figure that Martí celebrates in this text is an old lady from "un rincón de la Florida" (from a small corner of Florida). Doña Carolina Rodríguez, "la patriota" ("the patriot," as Martí used to call her), was an exile from the Ten Years War and a worker in one of the many small tobacco workshops located in Florida during the last decades of the nineteenth century. Martí represents her as the essence of the Cuban soul:

El alma cubana

Otros propagarán vicios o los disimularán: a nosotros nos gusta propagar virtudes. Por lo que se oye y se ve entra en el corazón la confianza o la desconfianza. Quien lee los diarios dominantes de la Habana, creerá que todo en la ciudad es pobre de alma y reparto de robos, y ambición de café, y literatura celestina; pero es preciso leer, con los ojos sagaces, el diario que no se publica, el de la virtud que espera, el de la virtud oscura: las almas, como las tierras de invierno, necesitan que la nieve las cubra, con muerte aparente, para brotar después, a las voces del sol, más enérgicas y primaverales. Quien vive entre hurtos y cohechos; quien no topa con codo que no manche o hieda; quien respira aterrado, con el silencio de la locura, o la exaltación del remordimiento, aquel aire de fórnice; quien no pueda comer el pan tranquilo si no se presta a ganarlo con deshonor o empeña al amo su acción de hombre libre; quien ve a la gloria misma, la santa gloria de ayer, subiendo humilde y sonriente la escalera ensangrentada de palacio, acaso crea, en la cólera de la virtud, que toda Cuba es de almas alquilonas, que el cubano se viene al fango como los pollos al maíz, que al cubano le acomoda el freno y la espuela, que no hay gusto para el cubano como el de llevar a la espalda un capitán de Cáceres u Oviedo, que de cuando en cuando deja que el animal se le encabrite, para que vea el mundo la sencillez con que vuelve a meter en paso la montura. ¡Pero esa no es el alma cubana!

¿Quiere saberse cuál es el alma cubana? Hay allá, en un rincón de la Florida que en manos del Norte no pasó de villorrio, y en las de los cubanos se ha hecho una ciudad, una anciana de buena casa, y de lo más puro de las Villas, que perdió con la guerra su gente y su hogar. Un ápice le queda de su holgura de otros días. Su cuarto pulcro revela aún, con sus paredes blancas y su vaso de flores, la vida cómoda del tiempo pasado. Por la mañanita fría, con los primeros artesanos sale a las calles, arrebujada en su mantón, la anciana Carolina [Rodríguez], camino de su taller, y sube la escalinata de la entrada, y se sienta hasta que oscurece, a la mesa de su trabajo. Y cuando cobra la semana infeliz, porque poca labor pueden hacer ya sus manos de setenta años, pone en un sobre unos pesos, para un cubano que está enfermo en Ceuta, y otros en otro sobre, para el cubano que tienen en la cárcel de Cuba sin razón, y en el sobre que le queda pone dos pesos más, y se los manda al Club Cubanacán, porque ese, Cubanacán, es el nombre que llevó ella cuando la guerra. Con ojos de centinela y entrañas de madre vigila la cubana de setenta años por la libertad; adivina a sus enemigos, sabe dónde están todos los cubanos que sufren, sale a trabajar para ellos, en la mañanita fría, arrebujada en su manta de lana. ¡Esa es el alma de Cuba!12

The text closes with a magisterial gesture, defining for his audience in the émigré community what the Cuban soul is: "¡Esa es el alma de Cuba!" [That is the soul of Cuba!]. If we read the chronicle in light of this gesture, it allows us to identify some of the elements that articulated Martí's conception of the national being, the model for a citizen's behavior. Each sentence proposed as an answer to the question "¿Quiere saberse cuál es el alma cubana?" (Do you want to know what is the Cuban soul?) establishes a moral code, which aims to define the Cuban being and the economy of its future existence—its virtuality. Framed in the polarization here/there, inside/outside, physical absence/material degradation, in summary the moral elements proposed in the chronicle are:

  1. The heroism of precariousness, of that which is small and marginal. This notion is linked to the Romantic historiographical notion of das volk or le peuple, as well as to Herder's idea of nations possessing a soul that could be detected in the most occult fibers of folk culture (where it is not apparent, but hidden, awaiting to be discovered, seen, by the gaze of the historian/poet).13
  2. A work ethic, which is maintained in the face of adversity as a necessary practice for the consolidation and cohesiveness of the national community (e.g., the old woman works to help those nationalist fighters who are in jail).
  3. Order and cleanliness, suggesting ideas of civil discipline and social stability.
  4. The historical unity of the generations. Carolina participated in the Ten Years War, and now, from Florida, she is helping to foster the resumption of the independence struggle, collaborating with the new generations.
  5. The purification of money. Money, within Martí's system, is a potential force of social and moral differentiation. In the chronicle, Carolina neutralizes its divisive and degrading potential through an offering to the political/national collectivity.
  6. The sacrifice of the personal familial space, the vanishing of the borders and distinctions between private and public interests, in order to construct the national family (the transference of private maternity to republican maternity, as Linda Kerber has studied it for the 1776 American revolution).14

Through these topics one can articulate a system of communicant vessels with the totality of Martí's biographical production in Patria. These elements prescribe a human behavior, but simultaneously structure the form of the chronicle itself. They can be seen as both the constitutive elements of a politics of nationality, but also of a poetics of biography.


The notion of biography that organizes Martí's works in Patria is not guided by a notion of totality, the narration of a life as it unfolds from birth to death. On the contrary, these texts inscribe fragments of a life. As Fina García Marruz has lucidly put it, it is about inscribing the essences of somebody's life in its emblematic moments.15 These essences define virtue. Furthermore, "El alma cubana" starts with the narrative voice posing himself precisely as a propagator of virtue—the voice of virtue—and by extension, as virtue itself.

Literary critic Manuel Pedro González has pointed out that the main stylistic feature of Martí's prose writing during the height of his mature period (which he locates between 1880 and 1895) was its sobriety. The sentences are like aphorisms, like moral axioms. It is interesting that all the examples that González provides in order to support his interpretation are from Martí's biographical texts, as if the axiom, as a stylistic procedure, was linked to the prescription of a human model, an exemplum, or a way of being.16 The biographical texts published by Martí in Patria are constructed on the basis of axiomatic units. His chronicle about Cayetano Soria, another member of the émigré community, is an unequivocal instance of this procedure:

Era un rico benévolo; era un obrero que no se envaneció con la riqueza; era un cubano que no veía en la riqueza el pasaporte para la indiferencia o el egoísmo: era un compañero de todos los que padecían; un hombre bueno era Cayetano Soria. 17

The passage is composed of brief clauses, and each one codifies a strong moral/ethical proposition. The biographical narration is not about an individual subject in its specificity and contingencies, but about moral values in their generality. These are the constitutive elements of an archetypical being, of a moral being. Virtue and morality are the essence of the people who represent what the nation is. Morality and nationality are understood as one and the same thing: "Lo moral es lo nacional" (What is moral is national) and vice versa, "What is national is moral." In another chronicle, Martí states it more directly: "Los españoles buenos son también cubanos" (Good/moral Spaniards are also Cubans).18 The essence of Cubanidad is moral good ness.

Cintio Vitier has claimed that Martí's basic concern in his writing about men was "la persona única, irrepetible" (what was unique and unrepeatable in a person).19 I would say, on the contrary, that Martí's texts operate with an arche-typifying drive. In them what is humanly contingent becomes subordinated to a master-model which needs to be reproduced (repeated). When Martí pays attention to a detail, it is always to place it as sign of a broader, transcendental order. Morality, as that which defines "la patria" (the fatherland), has a sacred, absolute character, not contingent or relative, and on this ground the "eternal and immutable" character of the nation had to find its roots.

This proposition must be read within a deeper and more dense historical and philosophical context, related to the ways in which modern authorities are constituted, and to the ways in which morality, politics and the state intermingle in modernity. Michel de Certeau has observed that during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, beginning with the crisis that divided the church at that time—and that eventually led to a separation of powers between church and state in Europe—the discourse of morality was no longer unproblematically grounded on a revealed truth. After that spiritual/institutional crisis, an autonomous ethic emerged; and this autonomous (non-religiously based ethic) had as a frame of reference "the social order of consciousness."20 Rousseau wrote to Voltaire: "Dogma is nothing, morality is everything." And in the Encyclopedia it is clearly stated that "morality surpasses faith . . . because almost all morality is of an immutable nature and will last forever." 21

Morality, within certain Enlightenment paradigms, is proposed as eternal, that which does not change; what was later reformulated by Kant as an innate categorical imperative. In modernity—in the face of the death of god and of the relativization of values—morality has been positioned as a discourse that pretends to utter what is immutable and essential. To say, then, that the nation in itself is moral is to say that the nation in itself has an immutable nature; to provide it with what George Mosse has called "a slice of eternity."22 It is within this modern understanding of morality that we may read Martí's moral concerns, his biographical writing and its relationships to politics.

I have mentioned already how Martí's biographies in Patria do not pretend to describe a totality. Human existence is not presented in its temporality (that which changes) but in its essence (that which does not change). This essence, as it has been seen, is stylistically inscribed in a sort of staccato, in its emblematic moments. The human figure becomes an ensemble of moral axioms. If, as discussed above, these texts functioned as vehicles to familiarize the dispersed points of the émigré community with each other, to a large degree this familiarization was meant to take place through the creation of a space of shared collective moral values—unity on the basis of a shared system of values, a moral community. The name of the individual figure in the biography was the cipher of the Cuban soul, of nationality in its immutability.

Modern nationalist discourses are grounded, to a great extent, on an aspiration to eternity, an aspiration to the absolute. One could say that biography, in this instance, was one of the places were the absolute and non-contingent became visible and paradoxically particular.


1 A longer and more detailed discussion of the ideas sketched in this paper appears in my Identidades imaginadas: Biografia y nacionalidad en Cuba, 1868-1898 (forthcoming, Río Piedras, Editorial de la Universidad de Puerto Rico, Fall 1995-Winter 1996).

2 Cf. Philip Foner, La guerra hispano-cubano-americana y el nacimiento del imperialismo norteamericano, Vol I, 1895-1898, trans. Encina Bodelón Velasco (2 vols., Madrid: Akal Editor, 1975), 1: 74.

3 José Martí, "Nuestras ideas," Política de nuestra América, ed. Roberto Fernández Retamar (México: Siglo 21, 1982, 231-37), 231, 237. The translation of José Martí's writing poses a challenge. For example, his style often does not follow syntactical conventions. This stylistic circuitousness is part of the richness of his prose and is one of the features that makes of Martí one of the most interesting writers of Spanish-American Modernismo. All translations are mine, unless otherwise noted.

The person who watches the country participate in a conflict fostered by provocation and fueled by desperation, and does not prepare, or help to prepare, the country for the conflict is criminal. And it is a greater crime when it is known, from previous experience, that a disorganized preparation could lead to the defeat of the most glorious patriotism, or that this lack of organization could spread through the country the germs of its final dissolution. He who today does not help to prepare the war, is helping to dissolve the country [...-.] This newspaper (Patria) is born, in this hour of danger, to look after liberty, to contribute to the invincibility of our forces through unity, and to prevent the enemy from defeating us again because of our disorganization.

4 Paul Ricoeur, "Violence and Language," Political and Social Essays by Paul Ricoeur, ed. David Stewart and Joseph Bien (Athens: Ohio University Press, 1974, 88-101), 89. It also could be said, of course, that depending on its uses, language—far from becoming an attempt to reduce violence—could function as the instrument or site where violence is legitimized. Language could have the power to institutionalize violence.

5 The best account of the first war of independence, known in Cuban historiography as the Ten Years War, is Ramiro Guerra y Sánchez' Guerra de los Diez Años (2 vols., La Habana: Editorial Ciencias Sociales, 1972).

6 Cf. José Martí, "El presidio político," 1: 45-74 and "Castillo," 4: 351-55 in Obras completas (27 vols., La Habana: Editorial Nacional de Cuba, 1963).

7 This text was first published as part of a larger work entitled Apuntes para la historia de las letras y de la instrucción pública en la isla de Cuba. The original version was composed in three volumes, successively published in 1859 (La Habana: Imprenta de P. Massana), 1860 and 1861 (La Habana: Imprenta del Tiempo). The Galería appeared as an appendix in the third volume. The Apuntes were reprinted in 1936 in the collection Biblioteca de Autores Cubanos, vols. 34, 35 and 36 (La Habana: Cultural, S.A.). The Galería de hombres útiles was published in an autonomous volume in 1955 (La Habana: Instituto Nacional de Cultura, Ministerio de Educación).

8 Cf. Raúl Cepero Bonilla, Azúcar y abolición, Apuntes para una historia crítica del abolicionismo (La Habana: Editorial Cenit, 1948).

9 Quoted by Jorge Ibarra, Ideología mambisa (La Habana: Instituto del Libro, 1967), 52.

10 Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities. Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (London: Verso, 1983).

11 José Martí, "Con todos y por el bien de todos," Política de Nuestra América, (215-24), 216.

To the fatherland over there that is falling into pieces and that has become blind from so much rotten dirt, we have to bring the pious and prescient fatherland that we are building up here! To what is left of the fatherland there, corroded all over by the gangrene that has started to gnaw at its heart, we have to bring together the friendly fatherland where we have gone, here in solitude, adjusting the soul, with firm hands—as it is required by good affection—to all realities, from outside and inside [....] Because, what do they know over there about this glorious night of resurrection, of the determined and methodic faith of our spirits.

12 José Martí, Obras completas, 5: 15-16.

Others might propagate vices or will hide them: we like to propagate virtues. Through what is heard or seen, trust or distrust enters into the heart. Whoever reads the dominant newspapers in Havana, may think that everything in the city has a meek soul, and it is about distribution of robbery, and Café's ambitions, and go-between literature; but it is necessary to read, with sharp eyes, the unpublished newspaper, the one that belongs to a longing virtue, to a dark virtue: souls, like winter soil, need to be covered by snow, with feigned death, in order to be born again later, to the voices of the sun, with more energy and springlikeness. Whoever lives among robberies and briberies; whoever does not bump with an elbow that does not stain or stink; whoever breathes in terror, with the silence of madness, or the exaltation of remorse, that suffocating air; whoever is unable to eat his bread in peace, if it is not earned with dishonor or pawns his actions as a free man to a master; whoever watches glory, yesterday's sacred glory, humiliated and smiling, going up the bloody stairs of the palace, may think, in an eruption of virtue, that all Cuba is about rented souls, that Cubans love mud like chickens love corn, that Cubans are suited to bridles and spurs, that what Cubans really enjoy is to have on their backs a captain from Cáceres or from Oviedo, who from time to time allows the animal to rise on its hind legs, in order to show the world how easy it is to bring him back in line. But that is not the Cuban soul!

Do you want to know what is the Cuban soul? There is, in a corner of Florida which in the hands of the North was just a small village, and in the hands of Cuban has become a city, an old lady of good lineage, who belongs to the most pure elements of las Villas, and who lost her house and family in the war. Barely anything is left of her past comfort. Her clean room still reveals, with its white walls and her flower vase, her former life. Early, in the cold mornings, with the first artisans, the old lady Carolina [Rodríguez], goes into the streets, wrapped in her shawl, to her workshop, and she goes up the stairs of the workshop's entrance, and she sits down to work, until it is dark, at her work table. And when she receives her little weekly salary, because her seventy-year-old hands could barely do any work, she puts some pesos in an envelope for a Cuban that is sick in Ceuta and some others in another envelope for a Cuban that is unjustly imprisoned in the Cuban jail and in the remaining envelope she puts another couple of pesos and sends them to the Club Cubanacán, because she thinks that the president of that club is a good Cuban, and because Cubanacán was the name she had during the war. With sentinel's eyes and mother's guts the seventy-year-old Cuban woman guards freedom; she guesses who are her enemies, she knows where are all the Cubans who suffer, she goes to work for them, in the early cold mornings, wrapped in her wool shawl. That is the soul of Cuba!

13 Cf. Herder, Reflections on the Philosophy of the History of Mankind. Abridged and with an introduction by Frank E. Manuel. (Chicago/London: University of Chicago, 1968). Important for the notions of victimization and precariousness in the romantic construction of national myths is Jules Michelet's Jean d'Arc (Paris: Gallimard, 1974). Lionel Gossman has discussed some of these issues in his essays "Jules Michelet (1798-1874) and Romantic Historiography," European Writers, Vol 5: The Romantic Century, eds. Jacques Barzun and George Stade, (NY: Scribners, 1985), 571-606; "The Go-Between: Jules Michelet, 1798-1874," Modern Language Notes, 89.4 (1974): 503-541; and "History, Decipherment: Romantic Historiography and the Discovery of the Other," New Literary History, 18.1 (1986): 23-57.

14 Cf. Linda Kerber, Women of the Republic. Intellect and Ideology in Revolutionary America (New York: Norton, 1986).

15 Fina García Marruz, "La prosa poemática de José Martí' in a volume written in collaboration with Cintio Vitier, Temas Martianos (Río Piedras: Ediciones Huracán, 1981), 213-238.

16 Cf. Manuel Pedro González, "Las formas sintéticas en el período de mayor madurez de la prosa martiana (1880-1895)," Estudios Martianos (Río Piedras: Editorial Universitaria, 1974), 15-27.

17 José Martí, Obras completas, 4: 415. "He was a benevolent wealthy man; a worker who did not become vain because of his money; a Cuban who did not see in wealth a passport to social indifference or selfishness: he was a companion to those who were suffering; a good man, that was Cayetano Soria."

18 "Un español" (Mariano Balaguer). Obras completas, 4: 391.

19 Cintio Vitier, "Los hombres en Martí," Temas Martianos, (92-119), 92.

20 Michel de Certeau, "La formalidad de las prácticas del sistema religioso a la ética de las luces (siglos 17-18)," La escritura de la historia, trans. Jorge López Moctezuma (México: Universidad Iberoamericana, 1985, 163-222), 166.

21 Quoted by de Certeau, 166.

22 George Mosse, Nationalism and Sexuality. Middle-class Morality and Sexual Norms in Modern Europe (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1985).

C. Neale Ronning (essay date 1995)

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SOURCE: "José Martí, Cuban Independence and the North American Economic, Political and Social Agenda," in José Martí in the United States: The Florida Experience, edited by Louis A. Pérez, Jr., Arizona State University Center for Latin American Studies, 1995, pp. 43-55.

[In the essay that follows, Ronning focuses on Martí's response to the Cuban community located in Florida's Key West. Ronning asserts that in Key West Martí found "proof . . . that Cubans could govern themselves freely."]

Two topics figures prominently in the public and private writing as well as in the speeches of José Martí after his first visit to Key West and the formation of the Cuban Revolutionary Party. The social interaction of Cubans in their community of Key West told him much about the future prospects of Cuba as a progressive independent nation. Second, socio-economic conditions and social interaction within the United States as a whole (among Anglo-Americans to use a common expression of that time), a topic of long-standing interest to Martí, was now treated from the perspective of its significance for Cuban independence and Cuba's future as a sovereign nation.

The Cuban community of Key West and the way Cubans lived, worked and interacted with one another in Key West was a subject of great interest and highest praise by Martí. The glorious Key, the noble Key, the generous Key, the legendary Key, the Key of love and sacrifice were only a few of the terms he used to describe the Cuban community there. What he saw in Key West was indeed the commonwealth of Cicero: the coming together of a considerable number of men who are united by a common agreement upon law and rights and by the desire to participate in activities of mutual advantage.

The whole corpus of Martí's writing after the formation of the Cuban Revolutionary Party (1891-1892) makes it clear that this was not simply a politician flattering his constituents in return for their support. There was something more important involved. Key West was proof to him that Cubans could govern themselves freely, under a just and democratic system.

Martí saw the need to point this out—to the Cubans in particular, but to the rest of the world as well—because he was well aware of a widespread, I would go so far as to say a dominant, attitude in the United States that Latin Americans had character defects (frequently seen as based on racial factors) which reputedly made progress under orderly government unlikely, if not impossible, there. This sort of propaganda, dating back to the early days of the republic, reached a fever pitch in the last two decades of the nineteenth century and for at least a decade or two after the turn of the century.

The prevailing ideas concerning the inferiority of Latins and the superiority of North American Anglo-Saxons were encapsulated in a best-selling book first published in the United States in 1886. The prominent author's reading of history and science convinced him that the powerful Anglo Saxon race of North America was destined to "move down upon Mexico, down upon Central and South America," and that in this glorious unfolding of divinely directed history "the extinction of inferior races" appeared probable (Strong 1963: 214-15). He left it to the reader to decide whether those results would be "sad or otherwise." There can be little doubt, however, that the author and "humble servant of God," the Reverend Jossiah Strong, believed it to be otherwise. This was not just any book. It was a book that more than one historian tells us was "a mirror of protestant America in the 1880s, reflecting its image of the past, its sense of present realities and its dreams of the future" (Strong 1963: xxvi; LaFeber 1963: 62-163).

What also must have concerned Martí was the extent to which these ideas were accepted by Euro-centered elites in Latin America. A measure of the extent to which these ideas had become a part of what the Spanish philosopher Ortega (1958: 50) has referred to as the powerful prevailing world of ideas in any generation (which he said we all accept even if only to try to refute them) may be seen by a remark by Juan Gualberto Gómez, who became Martí's principal representative in Cuba shortly after the formation of the Cuban Revolutionary Party. According to one of Juan Gualberto Gómez's biographers, he argued that the reason why Cuba would not turn into another Haiti was that Haitian blacks came from bellicose tribes of Africa while the Cubans came from the peaceful Gulf of Guinea (Horrego Estuch 1954: 99). Whether or not Juan Gualberto Gómez actually believed this need not detain us here. He was probably aware of what far too many Cubans and most North Americans apparently believed. Perhaps he saw in this the only effective argument to counter their fears.

Although it was published shortly after Martí's time, a book by a prominent intellectual and member of the Peruvian elite, F. García Calderón, is also an example of the kind of thinking so prevalent at the time. He found that because of the racial composition of Latin American countries, "their populations are degenerate," and "without the help of a new population there will be in America not merely a lamentable exhaustion but also a prompt recoil of the race" (García Calderón 1911: 362-63).

Martí began his assault on these prejudices by casting himself in the role of an explorer who tells the world of his discoveries. What Martí had "discovered" in Key West was used to the best advantage. After his return from the first visit to the South Florida émigré colonies, he wrote confidently, relentlessly and passionately about the proof that he had seen there of the ability of Cubans to govern themselves under a just and orderly regime.


Placed in the broader context of his writing that, of course, was not a new theme for Martí. He had long written about qualities of decency and strength among Latin Americans, qualities that were overlooked, ignored or not understood in the United States. But now his focus was expressly on Cuba and what he had seen and heard in Key West. The Florida émigré communities offered concrete proof of what he had long said in more general terms about Latin America as a whole. He would make the best use of his discovery because, as he put it, "the only real enemy of Cuban happiness is the lack of confidence among Cubans." Thus, it was now "obligatory to point out the nobility and grandeur of the Cuban people, the people of the émigré colonies" of Florida (Martí 1963, 2: 398).

Only a few days after he returned from his first visit to Key West, he spoke at Hardman Hall in New York City. It seems as if he could hardly wait to tell what he had seen, because his opening words, his very first words, told of the "jubilation" of the explorer who finds pure gold under the harsh rough ground. Martí the explorer had indeed found pure gold, and the gold that the explorer had found was the assurance that Cubans "possessed all the virtues necessary for the conquest and maintenance of liberty." He still trembled, he said, at having found the greatest display of virtue one could have found among men. It was, he continued, an impulse of virtue so strong in a people where it was supposedly in short supply that only a mean spirited politician, fearful because of his own ambition, would not respect it (Martí 1963, 4: 293, 295; emphasis added).

It is interesting, and I think significant, that he often used the term virtue, a term so frequently used by 18th century political philosophers. Many of the founders of the Latin American countries at the beginning of the nineteenth century had also used the term. But they had used it to warn citizens and leaders that virtue was something sorely lacking among their countrymen, and that, because virtue was lacking, serious dangers were on the horizon. In his address to the Congress of Angostura in 1819, Simón Bolívar lamented that "subject to the threefold yoke of ignorance, tyranny and vice, the [Latin] American people have been unable to acquire knowledge, power and virtue" (Bierck 1951, 1: 176). At about the same time but at the other end of the continent, Diego Portales of Chile declared in 1822 that democracy was an "absurdity" in countries like those in America "where citizens lack all the virtue necessary to establish a true Republic" (Collier 1967: 99). Carlos de Alvear in Argentina and leaders in other emerging states of Latin America expressed similar concerns (Romero 1970: 87).

The term virtue frequently reappears in Martí's references to Key West, but more often he referred to what he obviously considered to be the components of civic virtue, although I am not aware that he actually listed them as such (he probably would have been annoyed with that sort of academic passion for placing things in neat categories). With that caveat in mind, three categories that are frequently apparent may be mentioned.

The first of these qualities was Industry and the Capacity for Hard Work. In that first public speech after returning from Key West he told his audience of his amazement on first seeing the island: "Could this island, built and beautified by the labor of Cubans, belong to others?" (Martí 1963, 4: 298). It seems that hardly a month or even a week went by without a reminder in speeches, articles, biographies or personal correspondence, that Cubans had a full supply of that component of virtue. They were an industrious and hardworking people. And when the North American community in Key West imported strike breakers in 1893-1894 (to be discussed later), he wrote to José Dolores Poyo in disbelief: "We have been sleeping upon the hatred of the city that we have enriched" (Martí 1963, 3: 41).


It should be pointed out that it was not only in the factory workers and others usually called "workers" where Martí saw this abundant display of industry and the capacity for hard work. The wealthy factory and merchant entrepreneurs of Key West, such as Eduardo Gato, Teodoro Pérez and Carlos Recio were also included. To Gato, the self-made cigar entrepreneur and millionaire, he wrote words of strong praise. "You love work, and you see riches only as the triumph of work. You know that I admire in you, with a certain brotherly fondness, the bravura with which you have made your mark among men" (Martí 1963, 3: 111-12). In another letter, which followed shortly, he told Gato that "I do not call everyone my brother; allow me to call you brother" (Martí 1963, 3: 345). And in an article, "The Poor of the Land," which was a song of praise to the workers who had donated their entire October 10 salary to the Revolution, he added a point of clarification: "Ah, No, dear brothers . . . you have not been praised on the presumption that virtue is found only in the poor and never in the rich" (Martí 1963, 3: 303].

A second set of qualities that made for civic virtue was that of Generosity and Sacrifice. The very experience of living in exile was a sacrifice. In his first impromptu speech in Key West on December 25, 1891 he referred to this: "the soul of our people . . . is disbursed and nostalgic, in cold lands which lack the fire of our sun and the dignity of our palms" (Martí 1963, 4: 289). The sacrifice of exile was only compounded by generous contributions to the Revolutionary Party, especially during the bitter times of the 1893 depression when so many workers were unemployed. Martí returned to this theme again and again in public statements, in biographies of illustrious exiles and in his personal correspondence. In this connection, Key West was specifically referred to as "this Key of souls and self-sacrifice" (Martí 1973, 20: 397). In an article in Patria, October 24, 1894, when conditions had improved but workers were still suffering the effects of the great depression, he wrote of the "sublime grandeur in the sacrifice" of those who on October 10 had contributed their full day's wage to the Revolution (Martí 1963, 3: 303-305).

As if recognizing hard work and sacrifice as a characteristic of Cuban émigré culture, Martí frequently referred to his own life. And to the extent that "the respected tend to be incorporated into the self of his followers (Lasswell & Kaplan 1950: 156), he was possibly seeking to reinforce that characteristic. To Fernando Figueredo, a prominent Key West veteran of Cuban independence struggles he wrote: "Everything, Figueredo, I have given for my country" (Martí 1963, 1: 294). To General Serafín Sanchez, another Veteran living in Key West: "Here I am, bent over, writing to the entire Island" (Martí 1963, 3: 165). To José Dolores Poyo, legendary Key West newspaper editor and veteran leader: "Ah Poyo! If you were to come here [to Brooklyn] as one day you must, you will understand how a dead man raises himself by sheer 'bravo'" (Martí 1963, 2: 223).

Compassion and Love, words that rarely appear in today's political rhetoric (perhaps out of fear of wimpishness) comprised the third set of qualities in Martí's concept of civic virtue. Again, in that brief but remarkable impromptu speech on December 25, 1891 he promised that "united in love and aims, we Cubans will erect a home in the same generous manner that you have built a temporary way of life" (Martí 1963, 4: 290). When preparations were well underway for the invasion of Cuba, he wrote of his plans to four Key West cigarworkers: "I am going, and you are going with me . . . we are going to suffer and love one another greatly in the struggle which only lack of judgment and love can interrupt." (Martí 1963, 3: 244) And to yet another Key West worker: "We will establish the home of love." (Martí 1963, 3: 240)

Compassion and love, which he saw everywhere in Key West and the Florida communities, gave the Revolution a soul. They were the foundation of hope and faith in the Revolution. Commemorating the third year of the existence of the Cuban Revolutionary Party he published an article entitled "The Soul of the Revolution," in which he expressed his confidence that "with this soul the Revolution will triumph." (Martí, 1963, 3: 141)

Industry and the capacity for hard work, generosity and sacrifice, compassion and love; these were, to Martí, the elements of civic virtue that proved beyond doubt that Cubans could and would progress under a just and orderly government of their own making. These qualities were also summed up in the word grandeur, another term which he frequently used. Thus, in a letter to Poyo he expressed his confidence even during the most difficult of times and under the most difficult conditions: "I cannot express the love, affection and just pride and appreciation which in the name of our country, we owe to the émigré colony of Key West. . . . Never have I seen grandeur more pure than that which I have seen in my people during these days" (Martí 1963, 2: 462-63). No wonder, then, that he considered it "obligatory to point out the nobility and grandeur of the Cuban people, the people of the émigré colonies" (Martí 1963, 2: 398).

It was obviously upon this civic virtue, which he saw in all classes in Key West, that Cubans could and would build the new republic. Thus, in an article "The Exemplary Key," he spoke of Cubans of the most diverse origins living together in the just pride of common work. "In the great workshop [of the Key], those of the most wretched origins and those with the loftiest family names live together, seated together in party councils; [they are] the lawyer who wants new laws, the medical doctor who wants a clientele of free men, the revolutionary who won his status in war, the worker who earns the right to feel equal through the sacrifice of his work in exile" (Martí 1963, 1: 427).

For Martí, there was proof that Cubans had already begun building their new republic. He frequently pointed to this: "These masses of émigré peasants and slaves, hand in hand with the educated and wealthy of other days . . . have lived for a quarter of a century as if they were continuously exercising the capacity of the citizen of the republic." He also wrote of a powerful segment of the señorío, those who had lived within the masses in revolt, who had known and guided their capacity, had worked hand in hand with them, had loved the masses and were loved by them (Martí 1963, 3: 138-43). In one of his last communications, his letter to the New York Herald, May 2, 1895, he told the world that it was "that make-up of character of the child of Cuba that explains the capacity for independence that all honorable people will respect" (Martí 1963, 4: 156).

Martí knew, however, that there were those in both the United States and Cuba who sought to make Cuba a client state in its relationship with the United States. For purposes of this discussion, a client state may be defined as one where major contenders for influence, power and wealth look outside their own constituency (country) for legitimacy and support, inevitably creating a subordinate relationship (Martí 1963, 3: 140). Martí frequently used the term "colonial spirit" for this type of mentality.

Never happy about incorporating other countries or areas made up of "lesser peoples" into the United states, there were those in the United States who preferred some kind of a dependent relationship for the island, under the guise of independence. That the United States sought to place Cuba in such a relationship was something that Martí had long been aware of and concerned about. In 1889, "in that winter of anguish, in which the first Pan-American Conference met in Washington, and confronted by North American greed," Martí feared for the fate of Cuba and 'our America'" (Martí 1965, 27: 141). To Gonzalo de Quesada, a close friend and later his personal secretary, who was then Secretary to the Argentine delegation to the Pan American Conference of 1889-1890, he wrote of an ominous policy of the U.S. toward Cuba:

Concerning our land Gonzalo, there is a more shady plan . . . to precipitate the war in order to have a pretext to intervene there, and then as mediator and guarantor, remain on the Island. There is no more cowardly scheme in the annals of free peoples (Martí 1982: 201; emphasis added).

And in 1891, in a prologue to his Versos sencillos, he spoke of the horror and shame aroused in him by the United States' plan to remove Cuba from the patria hispanoamericana "for the sole benefit of a new master in disguise" (Martí 1964, 16: 61). This was not simply a new master but a new master in disguise.

There were also Cubans who looked for a client relationship. In his article on the Third Year of the Revolutionary Party he wrote of those who sacrifice least for their country and are closest to offering it to the foreigner, those who jeopardize the independence of the rest of Latin America by offering Cuba to a hostile and disdainful interest (Martí 1963, 3: 140).

His implicit fear of a client-patron relationship is evident in a number of his writings and speeches. He tried to convince Cubans that there was no need for that kind of dangerous and humiliating condition. But for those who might have continued to believe that there was a need for such a relationship, events and conditions in the United States in the years 1893 and 1894 offered Martí plenty of material to demonstrate what might be expected of a client relationship. This brings us to the second way in which events in Key West—especially the formation of the Cuban Revolutionary Party—influenced Martí's writings and speeches. We turn next to his commentary on socio-economic conditions and social relationships within the United States.

In a period of about two years, between August 1893 and his last writings in May of 1895, we find some of Martí's sharpest and most perceptive criticism of culture and social conditions in the United States. As already noted, he had long been an able critic of the North, as he called it. Much of this writing has been collected in volumes 9 through 12 of his Obras completas, subtitled Escenas norteamericanas. Nearly all of that work predates the period under consideration here, but it is useful for background and perspective.

Now (1893-1895) there is a different focus, or perhaps better stated, a clearer statement of urgency and of immediate purpose behind his criticism. He was aware, as he long had been, that there was and would be a crucial and unavoidable relationship with the United States. Geography and an aggressive United States nationalism made that inevitable. The full meaning of that situation now seemed to strike him as more ominous than ever. Above all, he believed that it was important that Cubans know and understand the nature of the United States, its interests, its morals and its culture.

The financial panic of 1893, with unemployment, strikes, catastrophic business conditions and increasing radicalism, is often referred to by historians as the most serious since 1837 and until 1929. A single reference of the time will give us at least a sense of both the seriousness of the crisis and the extent of domestic concern. The conservative Commercial and Financial Chronicle of September 16, 1893 referred to "the complete unsettlement of confidence and the derangement of our financial machinery" and observed that no section of the country was exempt from paralysis. It threatened the social foundation of the republic.

Martí, not surprisingly, went beyond the grim economic picture. Now, for the first time, he described the United States and its whole social fabric under serious crisis and stress. As Martí put it, on August 26, 1893, what he saw and what he wrote about were "the realities of a nation which shamelessly shows its profound cracks and fissures under the first clash of interests, as if interests were all that held it together." Here, he said, "were the results of a total dedication of life to the blind and exclusive pursuit of self interest" (Martí 1963, 2: 397).

The North had been unjust and greedy; it had been more concerned with securing the fortunes of a few than in creating a country for the good of all. It had created a country that was now harsh and sad, conditions were getting worse and there was neither the compassion nor the patriotic willingness to sacrifice that might resolve the problem. North Americans had brought to their new land all the hatreds and problems of the old monarchies. The North was closing; it could not accommodate the population that it had taken upon itself. Any person with foresight, he advised, should go in search of a more cordial or unpopulated land (Martí 1963, 2: 367-70).

In "The Truth About the United States," he wrote of "the crude, unequal and decadent character of the United States and the existence therein of all the violence, discord, immorality and disorder of which Hispanic Americans are accused" (Martí 1982: 30). Parenthetically, it might be worth noting that, according to his analysis, the very qualities fundamental to civic virtue were obviously lacking in the United States.

He used the terrible 1893 panic, with its serious effects on the cigar industries of Key West and other émigré colonies of South Florida, to point out that the Revolutionary Party was not and would not be a client of the United States. In his August 19 article in Patria (Martí 1963, 2: 367-70) he insisted that the party did not depend on the U.S. economy and would go about its business as usual. The crisis in the United States did not detract in the least from the Party's elements of strength because it did not live off the United States. The Party had its own inner strength, and that strength lay in the relationship of fundamentals, "between its objectives and its methods" or, as we might say, between its ends and its means.

The disastrous economic conditions in the United States did indeed strike a blow to the personal lives of the Cuban émigrés, but that was another matter. Thus Martí emphasized that the crisis through which the United States was passing, a crisis that was no fault of the Cubans, affected the latter only because of the poverty and conditions of suffering that it imposed upon them. Thus the title and the content of the article, "The Crisis and the Cuban Revolutionary Party," made it clear that there was no crisis in the Revolutionary Party. The crisis was in North American society.

As always that carried important object lessons. The most obvious was that Cubans had to build their own homeland. But another purpose or reason was to point out that the United States had all the vices for which it condemned Latin America. In 1894 he made this explicit: "It is necessary that the truth about the United States be known . . . [because of] the crude, unequal and decadent character of the United States, and the existence therein of all the violence, immorality and disorder of which the Hispanic Americans are supposedly guilty" (Martí 1982: 30). All the reasons that reputedly made responsible self-government impossible in Cuba were clearly evident in the North.

What was especially reprehensible to Martí was that North Americans had not lived up to their own self-image, especially what they proclaimed themselves to be. He also wrote of the illusion and imprudence of Cubans who had come to live in the North, where they had deceived themselves by taking North Americans at their word (Martí 1963, 2: 379). This probably helps to explain his even sharper words that were prompted by another development in Key West.

With signs of recovery from the 1893 depression, cigar factories began to reopen in Key West and elsewhere, but owners demanded wage concessions which workers believed to be unfair. The cigarworkers went on strike in a number of Key West factories. This threatened disaster in a community so dependent on the cigar industry and only beginning to recover from the ongoing depression.

Memories of earlier strikes prompted a strong reaction by the North American community in Key West. In January 1894, some of the community leaders went to Cuba and illegally recruited Spanish workers as strike-breakers. They were offered protection and what seemed to them to be tempting salaries. Violence understandably broke out between workers and strike breakers. Cubans were arrested and jailed (Rubens 1932: 34-43).

For one who, as Carlos Ripoll has said (1984: 3), was so deeply concerned with "how to achieve a functional accommodation of truth, self-interest and reason," this was the final blow. In articles and in personal correspondence his reaction was as much one of disbelief as it was of outrage. He published a long article in Patria, with an English translation to make sure that it reached North Americans (probably a vain hope). The message was clear: North Americans had betrayed the principles that they proclaimed to themselves and to the world.

The wound was not felt in the weekly wages; it was felt in the heart. Those men [the North Americans of Key West] were loved like brothers, and they turned against their brothers. Those men were looked upon as the embodiment of long-wished liberty, of freedom and republicanism, of equity and the prestige of law, of progress and the emancipation of America; and they filled our homes with terror, took the bread from our workingman's mouth, sent unguilty men to jail, dragged into a cell an innocent messenger. . . . They, the Republicans of America . . . Men of a free people. . . . No greater shock could have stricken the Cubans had they been killed by the knife on their threshold that they loved most (Martí 1963, 3: 57-58).

Personal correspondence carried the same urgent message. To his friend General Serafín Sánchez he wrote: "From what I have seen, everything is low and venal in matters where respect, prudence, gratitude, and humane and republican affinity ought to prevent interference" (Martí 1963, 3: 15). He was devastated: "Indignation suffocates me. Even if I could, I wouldn't wish to write [about it]" (Martí 1963, 3: 14).

Another lesson, probably more important although not explicitly stated, must have been apparent to his readers and listeners. The United States was hardly a model for Cuban development, and Cubans could hardly expect anything better from North Americans—as "mediator and guarantor," to use Martí's words—than the treatment that North Americans accorded one another.

Martí's long letter to the New York Herald in May 1895 was a final communication to the entire world concerning the hopes and objectives of the Cuban Revolution, and what actions to expect from the rest of the world (Martí 1963, 4: 151-60). His advice to the United States was cryptic and blunt, to say the least: "Do what you ought to do." Within the context of Martí's writings, and especially those of the previous three years, that could mean only one thing: "Stay out of Cuba's affairs. Leave Cuba alone!"

That, of course is not the way things turned out, and unfortunately, what Martí feared most was not long in coming. The origins and history of United States domination of Cuba cannot be traced here, but anyone who reads the text of the so-called Platt Amendment will see that Martí's concerns were no idle speculation—he simply demonstrated his unusual insight based on a sharp intellect and an objective assessment of historical fact.

As a condition for independence, The United States dictated specific stipulations concerning future relations between Cuba and the United States. These conditions were enacted as the Platt Amendment to the Army Appropriations bill of 1901 and were forced upon the Cuban Constituent Assembly. Article III provided that

The government [of Cuba] consents that the United States may exercise the right to intervene for the preservation of Cuban independence, the maintenance of a government adequate for the protection of life, property and individual liberty.

The so-called Platt Amendment made the client-patron relationship a part of Cuba's fundamental law. By the time that it was abrogated in 1934, it had become so much a part of Cuban political culture that the formal abrogation was just that—a formality which did little to alter the reality of clientelism. Martí, of course, did not live to see that cynical assault on the dignity and independence of the new Cuba.

A century after Martí's warnings, the issue was as much in vogue as ever, but, unfortunately, stature of Cuba's exile leadership seemed to be at a historic new low. In the early 1990s, in the press of New York, Miami, places in New Jersey and elsewhere in the United States, the voices of clientelism among Cuban exiles clamored for the United States to "do something!" That "do something" ranged from economic embargoes to outright military intervention. Some were even making political contributions to influential politicians in the United States in order to cement a type of clientelism.

Ironically, but not surprisingly, the United States propaganda instrument Radio Martí did not ask Cubans a pointed question that Martí asked a century ago. But a new set of Cuban exiles and émigrés in the United States might at least want to ask themselves if it is still relevant. For those who wanted or perhaps had not considered the full meaning of a client relationship with the United States, here is the question that Martí asked his fellow Cubans on August 26, 1893,

Do we want of offer our fruitful and virgin land to this dogpack of rich against poor, Christians against Jews, Whites against Blacks, farmers against merchants, Westerners and Southerners against Easterners, these voracious and destitute men, this furnace of anger, these grinding jaws, this crater that is already smoking? (Martí 1963, 2: 379-80).

That might have been directed principally to the outright annexationists who were indeed the major cause of immediate concern. But, as already noted, Martí was also aware and concerned about a less-obvious form of subordination—what he referred to as "a new master in disguise," in the form of a "mediator and guarantor"—what I have referred to, more mundanely, as a client relationship.

As Martí saw it, more than Cuba would feel the effects of United States domination of Cuba. In his last letter, to Manuel Mercado, on May 28, 1895, he wrote of his duty to prevent "the United states from extending itself through the Antilles and falling upon the lands of our America" (Martí 1963, 4: 167). It is at least interesting to recall the Reverend Josiah Strong's prophesy (which surely Martí knew of) that the powerful Anglo-Saxon race of North America was destined to "move down upon Mexico, down upon Central and South America" (Strong 1963: 214-215).

The issues implicitly or explicitly raised by Martí—the suitability of the United States as a model for Cuban and Latin American development and its ability to guide in that development—are more in question today than ever before, given the enormity of its own economic and social problems. In Martí's time there were indeed North American critics who addressed the problems highlighted by Martí. But it seems that the dominant opinion of the time was that aggressive outward expansion was the best solution to the problems at home (LaFeber 1963: 62-196). Indeed, the aggressive outward expansion that followed might have been one of the factors that made it possible to postpone any serious or realistic confrontation of domestic problems.

Today, something vaguely known as "the new world order," or "the new global order" seems to hold out hope for some commentators. In many ways the vision of a "new world order" may not be very different than the aggressive outward expansion called for a century ago. But perhaps there are reasons to hope that the country may be ready to face up to its own problems—all the vices that Martí noted but which he said North Americans attributed only to the Hispanic Americans.

A growing number of distinguished foreign and domestic analysts seem to be taking up where Martí left off a century ago. Thus social historian Eric Hobsbaum (1992: 1-2) has persuasively argued that "the United States as a whole has ceased to be a good advertisement for capitalism, even in straightforward economic terms." And Latin American specialist Abraham Lowenthal (1992: 8) is equally persuasive in arguing that "the single biggest factor shaping U.S.-Latin American relations in the 1990s is likely to be whether and how the United States confronts its own economic, social and political agenda." George Kenan (1993: 183), conservative, seasoned diplomat and respected historian calls for a "rejection of the tempting but fatuous assumption that we can find, in our relations with other countries or other parts of the world, relief from the painful domestic confrontation with ourselves." Finally, historian Paul Kennedy (1993: 291) finds a national mood very changed from earlier times, with "the United States . . . clearly more concerned about its future now than it was [even] a generation or two ago."


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