Enemy of the United States? / Somos+

José Martí

Somos+, Germán M. González (Professor-A1010-S +), 30 January 2018 — Our Apostle (as we Cubans call José Martí) is sentenced to prison in Cuba at only sixteen years of age. In 1871 he is deported to Spain; in 1875 he arrives in Mexico after a brief passage through Paris and New York, and from there he settles in Aztec lands until he falls into disgrace with the government of Porfirio Díaz; he lives in Guatemala and Venezuela, from where he has to leave because he upsets the dictators on duty, and spends a brief period in Cuba until his second exile. Altogether, twelve years of suffering prison, exiles, and physical and spiritual breakdowns. Sin: expression of thought. Enemy: intolerance.

From 1882 he resides–except for short trips–in New York. At this time he consolidates the monumental work that is considered by many the greatest cultural event of Latin American in the 19th century, and he maintains feverish political activity towards his life’s goal: the independence of his homeland. In his articles for the Spanish-American media the “North American Scenes” are defined; there he offers a vision of the American life of that period consistent with what he himself had stated:

To know a people, you have to examine it in all of its aspects and expressions: in its elements, in its tendencies, in its apostles, in its poets and its criminals! 

Martí recognizes the merits of this nation, the largest of those which never declared freedom in his article “Vindication of Cuba” and immediately after clarifies: We love the homeland of Lincoln, as much as we fear the homeland of Cuttíng. This coincides with the Americans who venerate their lumberjack president and scorn the other character. Martí always expresses the critical admiration that the young nation produces: Criticism is not censorship; it is simply and even in its formal sense–in its etymology–is this, the exercise of judgement.

Through the exercise of judgement–in and about the United States–José Martí did not visit a police station, nor did he visit a police officer in his 14 years of residency. How different from his previous 12 years of life in Cuba, Spain, Mexico, Guatemala, and Venezuela! If in these countries (even today) he had expressed a fraction of the opinions that he voiced about Americans, including the presidents, he would not have lived to prepare the necessary war and to die in it.

The criticism of the ideas of Martí in the United States is very wide-spread, unlike their admiration:

for the people greatest in peace and most generous in war live in his time in the universe. [O.C. t 13, p 83-115]

Deeply generous, or decorous, or discreet, is this American people, (…). [ibid]

(…) the greatest prosperity that written history remembers through the centuries; but a country that (…), to that which skimps on or threatens its right, denounces and overturns it. [ibid]

Of the most vehement of the freedom born in the apostolic days is North America. [O.C. t 6, p 134]

I would sculpt in porphyry the statues of the marvelous men who drafted the Constitution of the United States of America: I would sculpt them signing the vast work (…) [O.C. t 10, p 184]

At this moment in time, it is the truth that never has a happier crowd lived in such useful labor in any people of the earth, nor has it originated and enjoyed more fortune, [O.C. Vol. 9, p 123 E.D.]

How the relationship between the two Americas should be:

(…) whose enmity is neither sane nor feasible to encourage, and with which strong decorum and astute independence is not impossible and is useful, to be friends. 

Martí insistently warns of the necessity of the objective knowledge of the United States as well as the necessity of knowing Our America to achieve the previous purpose.

When the Latin American demagogues cease to blame the United States for all of their misfortunes, act like the Apostle predicted, and show more interested in the progress of their country than in the grasping of power, Latin America (and Cuba) will change.

Translated by: Emilee Sullivan