Today in Latin America, Cuba

Cuban riders during Ten Years’ War

Today is the 100th anniversary of US military forces leaving Cuba for the second time. This year is also the 105th anniversary (on Feb. 5) of the first end of the US occupation of Cuba. It is also noteworthy that we are also in the 50th year of Castro’s Cuban Revolution (Feb. 7 will be the anniversary of the new Cuban constitution passed in 1959). But it was on this day, in 1909, that Charles Magoon relinquished control of Cuba for José Miguel Gómez, a general during the war. Of course, the US had left once in 1904, returned and left again – this time keeping Guantanamo. It wouldn’t be until 1934 that the Platt Amendment would be repealed. And it still has not occurred a time when the US has not tried to impose its will upon the Cuban people – the blockade has a birthday coming soon, a shameful one at that.


To live in exile – to sculpt clouds.

The disjointed effects of the US intervention against the Spanish in Cuba in 1898 cannot be measured without Cuban response. On Jan. 29, 1895, Jose Martí issued from New York, where he’d first visited in 1875, the order of uprising (114 years ago). He would leave New York on 1 April, 1895. The skills and experience he learned in those years after 1875 in Mexico as a journalist and in Guatemala as a teacher would prepare him for his role in the Cuban revolution. In an early article written for The Hour around 1880, he emphasized the freedom of the United States:

I am, at last, in a country where everyone looks like his own master. One can breathe freely, freedom being here the foundation, the shield, the essence of life.

According to Carlos Ripoll, Martí came to know and understand the facets of American life, such as: “the difficulties and promise created by immigration; the racial prejudice; [and] the burgeoning labor movement” (Jose Martí, the United States, and the Marxist Interpretation of Cuban History [Transaction Publishers, 1984]) Martí wrote with abandon and spoke often of Cuban annexation, a cause which would lead to his death only five years later.

While in New York, Martí got back together with General Calixto García and his Cuban revolutionary committee, made up mostly of Cuban exiles who fought, in their own ways, for independence from Spain. He always held doubts, as others presented with these situations, but Martí fought for freedom, not a military dictatorship or otherwise on the island. He wrote poetry and published articles, poems and other materials in his five years in New York. He traveled across the United States (he met Rubén Darío in a theater in New Mexico), Central America, Mexico (meeting Porfirio Díaz) and the Caribbean (meeting up with Ten Years’ War commander Máximo Gómez).

I will die without pain: it will be an inner breakage, a gentle fall, and a smile.

Martí was killed in the Battle of Dos Ríos on 19 May, 1895 – not even two months after arriving. He was killed in a two man charge, which some have attributed to his attempts to prove his soldier-worthiness. Yet, it is only fitting that, upon death, he was not burned for Spanish fears of retribution – they feared that his ashes would asphyxiate them. Martí’s power never laid within the sword, but the pen.


~ by Daniel on January 28, 2009.

One Response to “Today in Latin America, Cuba”

  1. Blogrolling was hacked, but I’ll link back to this blog when it’s fixed.

    Very good post.

    The first I heard of Marti, was from Pete Seeger’s song.

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