A Hero To Justify The Cuban Failure / Cubanet, Luis Cino Alvarez
Posted on January 30, 2016
We continue on without wanting to admit that if our "wine is sour," even
if "the wine is our own," it is no more than that: sour wine.*
Cubanet, Luis Cino Álvarez, Havana, 28 January 2016 — Today marks the
163rd anniversary of the birth of our national hero, José Martí. It is
the time to repeat by rote the two or three of his sayings that all of
us Cubans learned since grade school. It is but a short time before we
again commemorate his death on May 19. Those two remembrances comprise
most of the veneration of Martí that was instilled in us from childhood.
What a shame!
We have the myth, but the counsels and teachings of Martí have served us
precious little. Rather, from the era of independence [from Spain] up to
today, we have systematically devoted ourselves to incurring everything
against which he warned us. We have done as the Israelites in the Old
Testament, who continually disobeyed Jehovah and were punished for it.
Although we are not even remotely like the Hebrews, our people, too,
have received their due punishment. And what awaits us, still…
Whatever became of all that which was quoted so often but has never come
to pass, of the republic and the nation "for all, and for the good of all"?
We Cubans have exploited, with no compunction, the legend of Martí. Few
peoples enjoy the privilege of having a poet as their national hero. But
poets and their worldviews are not easy to comprehend. We never
understood Martí well, and we have idealized and inflated him into the
politician that he was not and never wanted to be.
Upon preparing for the War of Independence, Martí fulfilled his
principal historic role. There was little else by then that he could do.
His death at Dos Ríos, on 19 May 1895, confronting a Spanish patrol, was
almost a suicide mission. It provided him the out that that he could not
find before such great obstinacy and lack of understanding among the
principle leaders of the Mambíses.
But the official story, that which was taught before [the 1959
Revolution], and which is badly taught today, refuses to acknowledge the
conflicts that existed among the leaders of the independence movement…
Would Martí, after independence had been won, been able to work with
those who were intending to lead the Republic as if it were a military
camp**, and instill in them his civic and democratic vision?
Very few Cubans have read Martí deeply. What we have an abundance of are
those who distort and manipulate his ideology. Thus, they have created a
multi-purpose Martí, useful and convenient for all.
The greatest plagiarist, Fidel Castro, made of Martí the intellectual
author of the attack on the Moncada barracks, his guide for the
construction of a socialist society, and mentor to his pathological
confrontation with the United States. To justify his single-party
dictatorship, Fidel cited the case of the Cuban Revolutionary Party,
overlooking the fact that it was created solely to organize the War of
Independence, and not to perpetuate the rule of any political caudillo.
The legend of Martí contributed to the construction of a meta-history, a
teleology of the nation's destiny, which has done us more harm than
good. Rather than redeem us, it bequeathed to us, among other things, a
bad conscience and the fate of national misfortune.
Writing from exile, Martí idealized a Cuba in which he lived barely 20
years of his life. But the Cuba he invented surely would have been much
better than the real one, if we Cubans had been able to make it come
true—if not exactly as Martí envisioned it, at least close to it. But we
were not able. And we continue not being able.
They beat us over the head so much with the pure heroes and the bronze
statues that they ended up boring us. As a result of this boredom, today
many Cubans, especially the young, associate Martí with the Castro
regime's harangue, and they reject him outright.
We Cubans should be ashamed of all the ignorance of and distortion of
Martí. But it is easier to feel sorry for ourselves. So we continue to
quote his sayings—even if they are out of context, or we do not
understand them well, or we interpret them according to our whim and
convenience—to justify our failure as a nation.
Thus attached to Martí, we continue not wanting to admit that if the
wine is sour, for all that it is our wine, is no more than that: sour
wine. Or even worse: vinegar. Which stings so much in our wounds…
*A reference to a quotation of Jose Martí well-known to Cubans, "Nuestro
vino es agrio, pero es nuestro vino" – Our wine may be sour, but it is
our own wine.
** A reference to another oft-remembered phrase from José Martí (though
not one commonly invoked by Fidel or Raul Castro): "Un pueblo no se
funda, General, como se manda un campamento" — A people is not founded,
General, the way one commands a military camp. Martí wrote this in a 20
October 1884 letter to General Maximo Gomez, in which he resigned from
the revolutionary movement.
About the Author
Luis Cino Álvarez (Havana, 1956) has worked as a professor of English,
in construction, and in agriculture. He entered independent journalism
in 1998. Between 2002 and Spring 2003, Cino was a member of the
reporting team at De Cuba magazine. He is assistant director of the
online magazine, Primavera Digital [Digital Spring], and is a regular
contributor to CubaNet since 2003. A resident of Arroyo Naranjo, Cino
dreams of being able to make a living from writing fiction. He is
passionate about good books, the sea, jazz and blues.
Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison
Source: A Hero To Justify The Cuban Failure / Cubanet, Luis Cino Alvarez
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