Sunday, June 17, 2007

Martí's Father

Si quieren que de este mundo
Lleve una memoria grata,
Llevaré, padre profundo,
Tu cabellera de plata.

If I a pleasant keepsake
On leaving this world may bear,
Father profound, I would take
A lock of your silver hair.

Martí's mother knew that she had given birth to one of the elect, and it upset her terribly that lesser men were more conspicuous successes in the eyes of the world and she never tired of berating her son for refusing to make the necessary compromises that would have allowed him and his nearly destitute family to live a more comfortable life. As the wife of an old man and the mother of five daughters, Leonor Pérez looked to him to be the family's support; but Martí's dream of national redemption, which carried then no special stipends or emoluments, consumed his life and his health and left only remnants of his efforts for his family. She had even told him in one of her reproachful letters (all her letters to him were reproachful): "Those who set themselves up as redeemers usually end up nailed to a cross."

Leonor Pérez loved her son madly, make no mistake about it, which made her disappointment in him especially painful to both. She was the kind of mother who believes that her son belongs to her and her only, and that only she knows what is best for him because only she really loves him. Ironically, it was Martí's death — the thing she feared most and presaged frequently — which allowed her to live out her last days in security and even comfort. The Association of Patriotic Emigres purchased for her the house on Paula Street (now Leonor Pérez Street) that was Martí's boyhood home and the occupation government appointed her to a clerkship worth $1200 annually which was later ratified by the Republic. She survived her son by 12 years and always wore black from the time of his death. In Versos sencillos Martí remembered her as the "matrona fuerte" who risked her life in a hail of bullets as she scoured the deserted streets of Havana, strewn with corpses, looking for her teenage son.

Unlike Martí's mother his father never reproached him for not becoming the successful notorio of his dreams. In fact, it was Mariano who best understood his son and gave him the greatest freedom to be true to himself even if that went against everything that he himself believed. A simple and even rough man who was as proud of being a Spaniard as his son was to be a Cuban, Mariano at first was perplexed by his son's seditious ideas as well as his artistic temperament, which led Martí to seek the support and nurture his spirit needed from the poet Rafael de Mendive, Martí's teacher and surrogate father. Many historians have unwittingly offended José Martí's memory by portraying his father as an abusive unfeeling monster, which he never was. Mariano Martí was stubborn and implacable, but, like his son, he was a vortex of emotions and irreproachably honest to others and himself.

It was when his only son was jailed at age 15 by Spanish authorities that the old soldier of Spain realized that his love for him was the central fact of his life which trumped all else, even his allegiance to his native country. Martí recounts that when his father first visited him in his jail cell Don Mariano fell to his knees in uncontrollable sobbing, kissing the wounds which the leg irons that Martí was forced to wear 24-hours a day had imprinted in his flesh. And the old soldier of Spain told his son that if his love for Cuba merited such sacrifices from him then he should do his duty as he saw it. Reflect on that those who question the nobility of the Spanish character or the expansiveness of the Spanish heart.

When his father died, Martí confided to his best friend, Fermín Valdés Domínguez, that he was now postrate with grief, for not until life had put his own integrity to the test, had he realized the greatness of his father: "I felt a pride in my father that grew every time I thought about him, because no one lived in viler times than him, nor, despite his apparent simplicity, did anyone more completely transcend those times, for no one was purer in thought or deed than him."

Martí evoked his father many times in his poetry, always with ineffable love, as mentor and guide. In his father's voice Marti retells the lessons that he learned from him: his love of truth and justice; his detestation of violence; the dignity and self-possession of manhood. In his poetry Martí transforms his father from "simple man" to "father profound." Or perhaps this indicates not the father's growth but the son's, in his understanding of life's trials and the real wells of courage.

It is now acknowledged that Martí wrote the greatest book of poetry that has ever been dedicated to paternal love: Ismaelillo. But in the poetry that he dedicates to his father he is just as eloquent and loving, touching chords of human sentiment that only the greatest masters discern or can reproduce:

Mi padre era español: ¡era su gloria
Los Domingos, vestir sus hijos,
Pelear, bueno: no tienes que pelear, mejor:
Aun por el derecho, es un pecado
Verter sangre, y se ha de
Hallar al fin el modo de evitarlo. Pero, sino
Santo sencillo de la barba blanca.
Ni a sangre inútil llama a tu hijo,
Ni servirá en su patria al extranjero:
Mi padre fue español: era su gloria,
Rendida la semana, irse el Domingo,
Conmigo de la mano.


Viejo de la barba blanca
Que contemplándome estás
Desde tu marco de bronce
En mi mesa de pensar:
Ya te escucho, ya te escucho:
Hijo, más, un poco más
Piensa en mi barba de plata,
Fue del mucho trabajar.
Piensa en mis ojos serenos,
Fue de no ver nunca atrás:
Piensa en el bien de mi muerte
Que lo gané con luchar.
Piensa en el bien de
Que lo gané con penar.
Yo no fui de esos ruines
Viejos turbios que verás
Hartos de logros impuros [...]
Cual el monte aquel he sido
Que ya no veré jamás
Azul en lo junto a tierra,
No: yo pasé por la vida
Mansamente ...
Como los montes he sido.

Vamos, pues, yo voy contigo —
Ya sé que muriendo vas:
Pero el pensar en la muerte
Ya es ser cobarde! ¡A pensar,
Hijo, en el bien de los hombres,
Que así no te cansarás
El llanto a la espalda: el llanto
Donde no te vean llorar [...]


Cuando me vino el honor
De la tierra generosa,
No pensé en Blanca ni en Rosa
Ni en lo grande del favor.

Pensé en el pobre artillero
Que está en la tumba, callado:
Pensé en mi padre, el soldado:
Pensé en mi padre, el obrero.

Cuando llegó la pomposa
Carta, en su noble cubierta,
Pensé en la tumba desierta,
No pensé en Blanca ni en Rosa.


tocororo_frikki said...

wow tellechea you almost make cry!!!
Reminds me of my dad when I started growing long hair finallly becoming a rebel and a rocker for good.
My dad went nuts inmagine an old fashioned cuban and his good son was becoming the devil's musician by the the devils music(yeah with all know that lol).
But when I was in deep shit he was there to help me get by with that kind of love only a father could give.
I guess sometimes he does not gets my craziness...I love you dad!
thank you tellechea for this refreshment of cuban history

Vana said...

What a beautiful story of father love, you made me cry, made me feel for that poor man, the sight of his son's wounds made him fall to his knees, and kiss his son's wounds, that's powerful stuff, my friend.
Happy Father's Day to you, and to all my cyber Cuban friends, may God bless you all.

Charlie Bravo said...

Wonderful story, Manuel. Thanks for reminding us of those history lessons that are never to be forgotten.

Agustin Farinas said...

I was wondering this morning where was the post about Father's Day specially in light of so much material from from Jose Marti. Now I return after lunch and find you have not disappointed me. Thanks for the excellent post. Oh, by the way, if you are a father, then have happy Father's Day. Judging by some of the postings from the circus, according to them, then you must be by now a great granfather!!LOL.

Vana said...

Beautiful post, beautiful poems, Marti wrote for his dad, you started my day crying, that love Marti had for his dad, but mostly the way he loved Cuba, and Cubans, if only he had lived, I think things would have been different.

Today we are celebrating father's day with my two children, all we've done is talk of Cuba, cry for Cuba, I'm so proud of my kids, they love Cuba as much as my husband and I, as much as all of us, we all deserve a free country, we are all wishing and hoping it happens soon.

Agustin Farinas said...

I just started to read Jose Marti El Apostol by Jorge Mañach, thanks to the kindness of a friend here who has the book and has been gracious enough to lend it to me. As a Marti scholar, what is your opinion of that book? Thank you.

Vana said...

What no posts today Manuel? hope everything is well with you, and that you find yourself in good health, hurry back ok

Manuel A.Tellechea said...


Jorge Mañach's classic biography was published 75 years ago and still remains the definitive one. It is a work of art in its own right since Mañach is himself a great writer and thinker and this is his magnum opus.

For 48 years, the Castro regime's meretricious intellectual acolytes have tried to write an official biography of the Apostle but he has thus far eluded them. In desperation they re-issued a couple of years ago Mañach's long-suppressed bourgeois biography and effectively rehabilated Mañach, whom they had condemned for 40 years as a fascist and CIA agent. They even authorized again the use of "Apostle" in reference to Martí, which had been replaced long ago in official publications by "National Hero" or "Intellectual Author of Moncada."

If I live long enough — or die soon enough — I may be "rehabilitated" myself. In fact, they have already issued a pirated edition of my translatiom of the Versos sencillos as well as appropriated the hitherto unknown Martí writings which Carlos Ripoll and I discovered and published some 10 years ago. These escritos desconocidos now constitute volume VII of the new Critical Edition of Marti's Obras Completas, which is currently being published with a grant from a Japanese foundation and projected to reach 38 volumes.

To make matters worse, they — and I mean, specifically, Havana's "Centro de Estudios Martianos" — even credited Ripoll and yours truly for our "contribution," though neither of us ever knew much less authorized the theft of our research!

Manuel A.Tellechea said...


I am well, though a bit tired by this week-end's activities on this blog. I will either post tonight or will write two posts for tomorrow, since I am intent on writing at least one per day. So far I've exceeded that goal by at least a dozen posts per month, and if this trend continues shall have reached 500 by year's end.

Fantomas said...

2 more links for the review of abajofidel

coge cualquiera de estos nota del editor

My readers are waiting Manuel

Agustin Farinas said...

thanks for the quick reply. I am truly enjoying it so far and Mañach is truly a great writer. Once I visit the US again this year I will try to find this book to keep in my library. This happens to be an edition by Las Americas Publishing Co. in N.Y. circa 1961. It has a prologue by Gabriela Mistral. Is not in the best condition because is very old but it is still together and legible. Are there any other books on Marti you can recommend so I can contact the bookstores in Fla? Any advise you can provide would be greatly appreciated. Thanks again.
As far as Ripoll's and your research work being stolen and publish without either one of your consents, I can say that I not surprised, because when you are dealing with thieves this kind of behavior is to be expected.

Agustin Farinas said...

I see trouble on the horizon again! The ghost of past postings has reappeared. Look out, Fantomas is back.

Fantomas said...

Tranquilo Agustin a kinder , gentler , fantomas has resurfaced

my beef is ONLY against the tyrany

the other beef has no value whatsoever

agustin wherea re you? in France

Manuel A.Tellechea said...


And since you are here, what is your opinion of José Martí?

Fantomas said...

heroe de la patria

and no HE WAS NOT THE INTELLECTUAL AUTHOR OF EL ASALTO A EL CUARTEL MONCADA ...como le enseñan actualmente a los niños en las escuelas de cuba

Vana said...

Am glad to hear you are only tired, but find yourself well,
looking forward to your other posts

Fantomas said...





Fantomas said...

mauel please write about who she really was,,,

Vana said...

Eso es verdad Fantomas, se murio Vilma, o nos estas jodiendo?

Agustin Farinas said...

No, ahora estoy en Puerto Rico buscando tu casa siguiendo las instrucciones que me dio Vana. Preparate que hoy te visito entre las 11 Pm y las 5 am. Con el machete en la mano!!

Vana said...

Jajajaja Agustin esperame que voy contigo, eso es si vive en Puerto Rico

Fantomas said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Vana said...

Pues llenala que pa' alla

Fantomas said...

Fantomas said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
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