May 19, 2015

One Hundred and Twenty Years of José Martí

One hundred and twenty years ago today, José Martí died in battle for Cuban Independence from the Spanish Empire.
Today, has an author page for Martí, and I was able to find good deals on used versions of books by and about him. I was lucky that they were generally in great condition, though most couldn’t really pass for new.
Some of the books that I’d traditionally counted on the SF Public Library for have recently disappeared, so I picked up a few of these for myself, such as some of the titles by Philip S. Foner; “On Art and Literature, Critical Writings by José Martí” and “Political Parties and Elections in the United States,” and by Lillian Guerra; “The Myth of José Martí.” I also got the one by Jorge Mañach; “Martí, Apostle of Freedom,” which has a “withdrawn” stamp in all caps on the very first page and a “University of Lancaster Library” sticker on the inside cover, and several others. Most were under $10 each, and probably as old or older than most who will read this. A more recently published title by Alfred J. Lopez “José Martí, A Revolutionary Life” explores every excruciating detail of Martí’s life, and this could be a good place to start.
 Over the years Cubans have elevated the memory of Martí to near God-like status (myself included) and there are plenty of reasons… but it’s not just us Cubans…
A few years ago I met a little boy from Costa Rica named Martí. That was his first name. When I asked his parents about the name (they didn’t know who I was) the mother explained that he was named after the “great Cuban Poet.”
“Marti is the liberator of always and forever” wrote Eduardo Abril Amores in the Cuban newspaper El Diario de Cuba of May 19, 1942. “The warrior of every epoch and the eternal thought of Cuba. Nobody has said, since Martí’s death, anything that he had not said. He was the pinnacle of Cuban liberty, of the Cuban ideal, and of Cuba’s political genius. Martí was Cuba’s Infinite. Martí reached a point beyond which there is nothing.”
Opening the door on 2015 finds Martí’s humanism a decaying element of modern culture, and maybe his writings can help us find it, though clearly not everyone will welcome it.
Martí may not solve the puzzle of our diminishing humanity being replaced by the Ferengi Rules of Acquisition, but many will find it rewarding to learn more about the poet, the teacher, and the revolutionist and the man who walks on clouds.


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