“I Like That Crazy Marti, The Friend, Not The Saint”

Yimit Ramírez, who wears the tattoo of the rose which Martí sang about, writes about the controversy. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yimit Ramiriz, Madrid, 28 March 2018 — I wish I had more time to write a shorter letter.

I met José Martí at almost the same time as I met my parents. In the reading book, before mastering the whole alphabet, they talked about him and there were isolated fragments of his writings. Later I discovered that all the school books, walls and news reports were full of phrases with his signature. During that entire time I didn’t like him, he was like a god, like the heavens, which is always there. Who goes to the library to read about heaven. Not me.

One day I approached Martí for the first time because of a personal interest, not as one of the many practical subjects at school.

It was thanks to the movies that I came to know him. I came up with a project looking at Cuban banknotes and I discovered in them a perfect metaphor for one of Cuba’s greatest problems.

As many know, there are two currencies in Cuba: the Cuban convertible peso (CUC) and the Cuban peso (CUP). If you look closely you will discover that the CUC notes have drawings of the same heroes as the CUP notes, with a slight but (to me) macabre difference: on the CUC notes the heroes are represented by statues while on the CUP notes they are men.

Considering that the CUCs are 25 times more valuable than the CUPs, an image took hold in my head: Statues of heroes are worth 25 times more than they themselves are worth in person! This was more than eight years ago. The first version of the script was greatly delayed because I dedicated myself to reading everything I could find in literature that talked about (in the order of the value of the bills): (1) José Martí, (3) Ernesto Che Guevara, (5) Antonio Maceo, (10) Máximo Gómez, (20) Camilo Cienfuegos, (50) Calixto García, and (100) Carlos Manuel de Céspedes.

There I found a lot of information I hadn’t been given in school. My friend Eliecer Jiménez Almeida (who still lives in Camaguey) introduced me to Rafael Almanza, probably one of the living people who has read Martí the most, and who even discovered unpublished texts in his research. Rafael Almanza is a poet and a writer who is censored, and to go to his house you have be accompanied by a friend of his, if not he doesn’t open the door for you.

Rafael shared with me the conclusions that he had reached from reading all the Cuban history books written by both Cubans and Spaniards, before and after the Revolution. For example, he told me that he was very bothered that all the heroes were treated equally, that the only impeccable one was Martí and it seemed fatal to him that they would compare him to others “who weren’t worthy to shine his shoes.” Rafael gave me letters (I have them and they are on the internet) where Gómez and Maceo criticized and branded Martí as “effeminate” (hence Garrinacha’s caricature). He showed me and talked to me of many things that would make an encyclopedia of this.

I stumbled, I was stuck in a swamp of love for Martí, I fell madly in love and it infuriated me not to have met him in person. I abandoned reading all the others and submerged myself in him. I discovered a new Martí who was not a heavenly creature, but a person who shit and liked hashish, who liked to ask questions of children and had fun. I really liked this crazy guy. And I liked to treat him like a friend, not a saint.

On a return trip, I rediscovered poems that were like an “Our Father” in elementary school. Poems that all Cubans know by heart like the palm of their hand but that we have rarely analyzed. I rediscovered the white rose and it seems to me such a useful concept that I decided to tattoo it on my right arm to have it present and visible.

“I Want to Make a Movie” is not a movie about Martí, it is a love story between two apparently very different and very unusual young people who overcome their difficulties and love each other. Cuba needs this level of coexistence with its chances of love! Tony doesn’t care for Martí and Neysi likes him a lot. They aren’t in agreement about some things and overcome this and find love behind the walls. How beautiful Cuba would be! How beautiful it would be a context in which we can all talk and react spontaneously, without simulations and simulations of simulations and pissing contests! Why is everyone forced to like Martí? Why the tocororo (national bird), the palm, the shield, the anthem? Why so much unreality, rigidity, innocence?

This is what I was feeling when I decided to leave the scene in the movie. I felt that attacking him, given the circumstances, was the greatest affection. The necessary stone to take him down from his pedestal and bring him to the barrio, the people, the sincere friend. And that is happening right now with this whole movement. Martí must be enjoying it. A hug for him and for all of you.

This event has generated very interesting and necessary debates, it is another movie that is happening in real time written and acted by all of us. This movie also delights me. My thanks to the Cuban Young Filmmakers Exhibition for so much love and commitment. It is very healthy to question nationalism and everything sown and imposed. What survives that review, welcome it; whatever doesn’t, let it continue on its way and that’s it. Without conflicts or tears, with love, with a white rose.

*I cultivate a white rose
in June as in January
for the sincere friend
who offers me his open hand.


*Poem by José Martí


Yimit Ramírez is a film director. This text has been published on his personal Facebook page and we reproduce it with the authorization of its author.

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