Marti for All Tastes

All take pride in knowing him well.  His writings are read like they were the Bible.  And it is politically correct to cite him at important moments.  Jose Marti is the icon of both bands in Cuba.  Opponents as well as those loyal to Castro use Marti’s speeches and phrases to focus their theories, projects, and ideologies.

Fidel Castro’s revolution identifies itself profoundly with Marti and uses his figure so repeatedly that young people have grown bored with it. Those who disagree with the One and Only Comandante are not far behind.  Their banner is Marti.

There are Marti busts in all schools, union and party centers, and in the living room of many dissident’s home.  And leaders of the opposition always cite him at the beginning of some document or political manifesto.

There are also numerous anti-Castro politicians across the pond who admire Pepe Marti and have him as their standard. In 1984, when the Reagan administration allocated funds for a radio station to broadcast to the island, it named the station Radio Marti.

Castro almost went apoplectic. He considered such an act an insult to the ideals of the Cuban martyr.  In 1953, when Castro himself attacked military barracks in Santiago de Cuba, he wore out Marti phrases in the process.

In fact, at the trial that followed, he declared that his actions were inspired by the national hero.  The official media designated Marti “the intellectual author of the Moncada Barracks assault.”

The humanist bard, who died at the age of 42 years at a minor skirmish at Dos Rios, in the former Oriente Province, is an important figure because his ideas are above good and evil.  Marti is to Cubans of all political stripes what Christ is to the Catholic Church.

In life, he had serious rivals and was envied by certain groups of crude and brave proponents of independence–they saw the journalist from Havana as some weirdo who spoke and wrote like the gods, but who had never fired a shot.

The men with machetes in hand, limping from the war against the Spanish motherland, would mutter that Marti was a Captain Araña.*  The poet, however, fought against the current.

His accomplishment of uniting the most important Cubans in the Revolutionary Party, which he founded, is indisputable. Even today, many in Cuba lament his premature death.

Many believe that events would have unfolded differently had Marti lived. Castro believes himself to be a fervent follower of Marti’s ideas. But he applies them at whim. Marti was an anti-imperialist, but he never said anything about ruling for life or disrespecting those with whom he differed. He never said that.

And that is where those who are opposed to the ancient rule of the brothers from Holguin say is where the government brazenly manipulates Marti’s premises. I agree.  Marti never applauded Marxist theories.

And the Cuban government, in a political aberration, considers itself both Marxist and based on Marti. Marti always advocated for the dignity of all persons. Those loyal to Castro turn a deaf ear to the Master’s ideas about this.

Marti has become a crutch for politicians, regardless of their ilk.  A cliche. And sometimes it gets tiresome, like the Cuban politicians of both bands who use Marti at their whim and convenience.

This has resulted in young people seeing the national hero with disdain–they even ridicule him. Most youth could not care less about Marti’s ideas. They are unbelievers by nature. They have other symbols: frivolous things, fashion, sports and movie stars. For Marti, it’s off to the attic.

It is a shame.  They are conditioned to see Fidel as an extension of Marti.  The government’s pure and hard propaganda has wished it so.

One hundred and fifteen years after his death, on the 19th of May, 1895, no politician on the island has been able to fill the void left by Marti.  Pepe, we are still looking for someone who could be like you.  There is no one.

Ivan Garcia

Photo: Andrea Bellamy’s, Flickr

*Translator’s note: “Captain Araña” was an 18th century character who sent others to do what he would not.

Translation by HEFA and Paige Harbaugh