Monday, January 28, 2008

On the 155th Anniversary of José Martí's Birth

Today marks the 155th anniversary of the birth of José Martí (1853-1895), Cuba's national hero and greatest literary figure. It is also the 50th time that we are compelled to commemorate this ocassion with Cuba under the rule of Fidel Castro, whose capacity for evil is certainly as great as Martí's capacity for good. It was our failure as a people to heed the humanistic lessons that Martí taught us which led to our country's perdition. Perhaps the merciless lessons of his antithesis will teach us what to avoid in the future. It was Martí who said that we must work with men as they are and not as we would wish them to be. We sought perfection in our leaders and condemned them for our own failings. Finally we elevated one to ultimate power who was indifferent to our disapproval or disdain. Martí idolized his people and attributed to us virtues that we perhaps did not possess; but Castro despised, vilified and degraded us till we acclaimed his vices as virtues and embraced them ourselves. Evil, of course, has no more certain a lease on men's affections than good. When the yoke of tyranny is finally loosened and dissolved, our people will thrive under freedom at least as heroically as they endured tyranny. Martí's writings will be read, understood and assimilated; and the great work of national redemption which he began will at last be complete and his faith in us and hopes for us fulfilled. May we all live to see that glorious day.

If You've Seen a Mount of Sea Foam

If you've seen a mount of sea foam,
It is my verse you have seen:
My verse a mountain has been
And a feathered fan become.

My verse is like a dagger
At whose hilt a flower grows:
My verse is a fount which flows
With a sparkling coral water.

My verse is a gentle green
And also a flaming red:
My verse is a deer wounded
Seeking forest cover unseen.

My verse is brief and sincere,
And to the brave will appeal:
With all the strength of the steel
With which the sword will appear.

A Selection of Quotations by José Martí (Translated from the Spanish)

Martí the Blogger


Mi Tres Cubano said...

great article. I can only hope that this is the last, if not the penultimate, time that we celebrate our blue eyed hero's birth under castro bros inc.

Manuel A.Tellechea said...


Thank-you. Actually, our "blue-eyed hero" had brown eyes, although I think you mean "fair-haired," that is, someone who is a favorite of ours.

Carlos Miller said...

Marti is revered by Cubans in Cuba and Cubans in Miami, which is not a common occurrence.

Those in Cuba should remind themselves of Marti's words:

Es mejor morir a pie que vivir arrodillado

It's better to die standing, than die kneeling

Vana said...

Thank you Manuel for reminding us of the apostles birthday, also your translation of his Versos Sencillos is awsome, as tres says hopefully next year we will celebrate his birthday in a Cuba Libre.

Fantomas said...

Oye Manuel no crees que el acto de los Marines Americanos borrachos de orinarse y subirse al tope de la estatua de Marti alla para los 50 fue un acto de provocacion y humillacion a la patria cubana

Manuel A.Tellechea said...


The drunken sailors were paid to profane Martí's statue by Cuban photographers who then recorded the incident. It is illustrative of nothing but how low some Cubans would sink to foster enmity between our two peoples, contrary to Martí's own warnings in that respect; and constitutes a powerful precedent of the Castroites' antics a decade later.

Rene M. Grave de Peralta said...

Yo quiero, cuando me muera,
sin patria, pero sin amo,
tener en mi losa un ramo
de flores y una bandera.

Fantomas said...

Manuel tienes las pruebas de que esos Marines fueron pagados por los fotografos. Por favor hablame y documentame mas acerca de esta oprobia a la patria

Rene M. Grave de Peralta said...

Whether they got paid or not, what does the act of a few drunken 18 year olds from places like Boise, Idaho and Modesto, California have to do with anything?

Agustin Farinas said...

sailors in all the Navies of the world behave pretty much the same. After being cooked up for months in a ship the act wildly and stupid. Is the nature of the beast. They only do what all sailors do, go wild once the hit the land mass, whether it is looking for prostitutes or going in wild drunken parties.
I don't have the facts to support that these sailors were paid to defile Marti's statue, or that their intentions were to
insult the Cuban people as such. In fact it is more than likely that they probably did not even know who Marti was. Someone probably just said, "let's go and piss on this statue" and that was that. In their ignorance, they just acted juts like all sailors do all over the world, making asses of themselves while being drunk.

Manuel A.Tellechea said...


You are right. Americans then and now don't have the vaguest idea of who José Martí was despite the efforts of more than one Cuban over more than a century to popularize his life and legacy in this country. Certainly these teenaged sailors 60 years ago didn't know Martí from Adam. It was not a coincidence, however, that the Americans acted thusly in what was possibly the most public area in Cuba. They were indeed enticed by Cuban newspaper photographers looking to create an international incident, which they did. Hundreds of pictures of the incident were taken and the sailors were even asked to re-create it several times because, naturally, it was a "sensitive" subject which had to be photographed at just the right angle.

This fabricated "scoop" was one of the pillars of Castro's anti-Americanism and cannot be dismissed as a mere prank (on the part of the photographers). It is perhaps the best example of the cheapening of Martí's legacy which led us to where we are today.