International Bicycle Fund
January 28, 2003 is the 150th anniversary of the birth of Jose Marti, Cuban independence hero.
"It's the hour of muster and the united march. We must advance shoulder to
shoulder, one solid mass like the silver lodes in the depths of the Andes."
THE LEGACY OF JOSE MARTI
Excerpt from History of the Cuban Émigré Community in the U.S.
by Luis Martin
Jose Julian Marti y Perez was born in Havana, Cuba on January 28, 1853 to a poor, immigrant, Spanish family. At the age of 16, he published a pro-independence magazine called "La Patria Libre" for which he was imprisoned and sentenced to six years hard labor. Deported 3 years later, Marti settled in Spain where he earned a degree in law and philosophy. He traveled extensively through France, Mexico and Guatemala making a living as a teacher and journalist. During exile he became famous throughout the Hispanic world for his philosophical writings, stories, poems and brilliant political essays that heralded the coming liberation of Cuba.
After a return to Cuba in 1878, Marti was again deported in 1879 for revolutionary activities, settling in New York City after a brief stay in Venezuela. Although Marti was a fervent Cuban nationalist and anti-imperialist, he was as much an offspring of the U.S. as his native Cuba. Having spent only a fraction of his life in Cuba, Marti lived in the U.S. from 1881 until 1895 where he became a prominent thinker, journalist and politician. His ideas were conditioned by the long years in North America. His most admired North Americans were Ralph Waldo Emerson and Walt Whitman whom he called the poet of the people. Marti had a grasp on the ideas of Henry James, Washington, Jefferson, Hamilton and Lincoln and was thoroughly read on the works of historian William H. Prescott and George Bancroft. He admired Wendell Phillips, leading abolitionist, and was a close friend of Charles Dana, editor of the "New York Sun", in which he published frequently.
Marti wrote copiously about the land of his exile. Seventeen of his 74 volumes of written works were dedicated to the description of life in the U.S. As an international correspondent for leading South American newspapers, Marti wrote articles describing in eloquent and graphic terms that the U.S. was not an example for other countries to follow. Long before C. Wright Mills, Marti exposed the workings of an industrial-military complex active in corrupt deals between the U.S. Navy and ship builders. Marti also wrote about labor strikes, European immigrants and the Haymarket incident expressing strong sympathy for the workingman that extended to oppressed minorities in articles such as the "Negro Question" and "The American Indian". Marti also covered important events such as the Democratic and Republican national conventions and a memorial meeting of North American socialists to commemorate Karl Marx.
Marti was also an internationalist. He Believed that Cuban and Latin American sovereignty were inseparable issues. He labored for Puerto Rican independence and politically countered moves from the U.S. to dominate the newly freed Latin American countries.
To Cubans, Marti is a potent symbol of unity. He is the creator of
independence, the soul of the nation, the living gospel of the homeland, the
"Maestro", the "Apostle". This is why his name is so misused in the propaganda
of the opponents of the Revolution. As a clear manifestation of the
misinformation surrounding Cuba, the U.S. finances what it names Radio and TV
Marti to encourage the overthrow of the Cuban revolutionary government.
Actually, Marti warned that Cubans should not court the aid of the U.S.
because that aid would endanger Cuba's sovereignty. In his last interview with
the New York Herald (Bryson, Eugene, May 2, 1895), Marti voiced the conviction
that those who collaborated with the U.S. government against a politically and
economically free Cuba were traitors and "gusanos" (parasites) -a word used
today to describe the Cuban opponents of the revolution. No one, including
Fidel Castro, has ever surpassed Marti in his mistrust of the U.S. government,
his criticism of life in the U.S. and his animosity toward that
country's predatory foreign policy.
Marti concurred with the thesis of Karl Marx's writings, but he can not be said to have been a card-carrying socialist. Although he was an authority on U.S. imperialism, Marti did not find capitalism to be its cause. He envisioned a social, political and economic structure for Cuba in which a benevolent form of indigenous capitalism could sustain social justice and racial equality through an equitable sharing of the nation's wealth. "With all and for the good of all", said Marti to Cuban workers and entrepreneurs alike about the Cuba to be forged from the ruins of Spanish colonialism.
Marti's greatest political achievement was the complete unity of the Cuban émigré' community in the U.S. To achieve this Herculean feat (even by today's state of affairs) he enlisted the support of Cuban workers and their socialist leaders to form the Cuban Revolutionary Party. In so doing, Marti surprised many Cuban leaders who previously thought of him as a great writer but lacking organizing and leading abilities.
Wary of the its far-reaching social program for the new nation, Don Tomas Estrada Palma, a Cuban liberal, dissolved the Cuban Revolutionary Party after the death of Marti. As the first "president" of Cuba he became one in a long line of proconsuls who subjected Cuba to U.S. colonial rule. Marti's ideas, however, inspired a prolonged struggle which culminated in final independence from the U.S. on January 1, 1959.
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