Today, May 19th, marks the 113th anniversary of José Martí's death but never has he been more alive than today or more indispensable for our country's future. He is the reliquary of our country's aspirations for freedom and the agent of its regeneration now as then. Men live only a finite time on earth; but the greatest men transcend the days of man and become immortal because they embody in themselves and in their work timeless ideals which are forever relevant and vital. Such was Martí to our people and all the peoples of the Americas, indeed, to everyone anywhere who has ever bothered to acquaint himself with his life and writings. As Martí said, "I believe that man has a duty to do good even after death. Therefore, I write." If we had heeded his words and followed his example, we would have been spared the great calamity that befell us as a people. The last 50 years have only reinforced his central place in our national cosmology and the necessity of rebuilding our country along the lines that he laid out.
A popular song of the 1940s lamented that Martí should never have died because he alone could have returned dignity and probity to our national life. There is precisely where we erred as a people: the fatalism of believing that only a resurrected Martí, and not his teachings alive in all of us, could save us. Maybe these last 50 years were an unavoidable expiation for ever thinking that we had found a substitute for Martí in the vilest man that was ever born in our country. There is no substitute for Martí and we will forever err if we expect there to be one. Martí does not need a subtitute because he has never left us. It is our duty as individuals and as a nation to honor his memory by showing ourselves to be worthy of his legacy. The only way to do so is to assimilate and apply his teachings. Therein we will find also the way to our country's redemption.
Also of interest:
May 19, 1895: Death of José Martí at Dos Ríos
A Selection of Quotations by José Martí (Translated from the Spanish)