Sunday, March 29, 2015
According to the Siberian Times, it's a typical news day in Siberia. Former Ukraine president's son Viktor Yanukovych's "mysteriously" drowned when his vehicle fell through the ice on Lake Baikal which "he should have known was too dangerous to drive on." There's a story about a father who threw his infant son out the window of his apartment while under the influence of a new synthetic drug which caused the man to hallucinate that his home was filled with gas (a passerby broke the child's fall and he survived). And Shilka, the first polar bear born in Siberia in 40 years, is headed for a zoo in Osaka, Japan because the local zoo in Navosibirsk didn't have the 110 million rubles ($1.6 million dollars) to construct a suitable habitat for her (would't Lake Baikal have been suitable enough or is it too filled with humans?).
None of these stories, however, was the leader in today's Siberian Times. The top story was: "Fidel Castro Sent to Siberia." Oh, consummation devoutly to be wished! In permafrost, I thought for a moment, waiting to be resurrected with other mastodons? No, alas, it is his son, namesake and spitting image, Cuba's premier niño bitongo, now 66 years old. (Coincidentally, that is also Prince Charles' age. Well, at least Charles is still the heir apparent; Fidelito is not even the heir presumptive).
Fidel Castro Díaz-Balart, scientific adviser to the Council of State and former head of Cuba's (failed) nuclear program, was supposedly sent to Siberia to strengthen "economic and academic" ties between Cuba and Siberia. The story noted Fidel père's special interest in this project.
The story did not, however, mention Cuba's historical ties to Siberia, which actually do exist thanks to that amazing artificer of ties between unrelated countries which nonetheless share totalitarian affinities, the real basis of all "solidarity" and "internationalism" in the Communist underworld. During the 1980s, Cuba sent 30,000 Cuban lumberjacks to Siberia to replace the aging denizens of the Gulag and complete the great work of deforestation begun by Stalin and replicated by Castro in Cuba. That, at least, was the official version of the story. How apt Cubans were for such work in subzero temperatures has yet to be explained, or whether Cuba's prevailing interest in this fraternal enterprise was disposing of yews or disposing of "Jews" (i.e. Cubans).
"Fidel Castro Sent to Siberia" from Siberian Times
Sunday, March 08, 2015
Let not this be mistaken as my review of Alfred J. López's José Martí: A Revolutionary Life (University of Texas Press, 2014). This work which became, immediately upon publication, the first and only professional biography of Martí, deserves better of me than this cursory note. To have reached that preeminence before López's biography required little more than to include an index, footnotes and bibliography. All these are missing without exception from previous attempts in Spanish and understandably so, since most of Martí's so-called biographies are prose poems that chronicle the author's particular devotion to him and do not require that fact to be documented. In English, there have been biographies which contained the requisite academic apparatus but whose text made it abundantly clear that these resources, if consulted at all, had been misunderstood or subordinated to a grand plan to distort Martí's life and thought and drive him into a political rut which he had always consciously avoided. López's effort is notable, and, indeed, singular, because it is neither hagiographic nor tendentious; it gathers the facts, from the widest range of sources, and presents them objectively and in concert. No aspect of Martí's life is slighted in favor of another. No subject is avoided because it does not rise to the gravitas which is usually imposed on Martí. The facts are enough to give Martí his proper stature and they do. It is not López's driving concern to instill in you love and admiration for Martí; but love and admiration you will feel, after reading this book, even if you had never heard of Martí before.
It is remarkable that no friend or close acquaintance of Martí's — not even Gonzalo de Quesada, who was nearest to being his Boswell — ever attempted to write his biography. We owe to his disciples only reminiscences of Martí short on facts and long on praise, which assure us of the reverence which he inspired in life but do not bring us closer to the man himself. This is indeed most unfortunate but perhaps inevitable: those who viewed him at the closest proximity were most aware of how truly daunting was the task of capturing for posterity the full extent of his genius and his humanity. To have attempted and failed to do him justice was simply a risk that none of them wished to take out of regard for him and fear of damaging their own reputations.
It is also to be lamented — and López laments it, too — that Carlos Ripoll, who wrote more than 20 books on Martí and hundreds of articles and pamphlets on every imaginable aspect of his life, never attempted a comprehensive one-volume biography. It was not from want of encouragement. All his friends, including me, suggested it to him. Indeed, I tried to convince him that he had already written such a biography and published it serially, if not sequentially, over 40 years. All he had to do was to put all his articles in chronological order, eliminate any repetitions and create transitions when necessary, and the biography would be a fait accompli. Of course, such a task of condensation would have baffled if not defeated even the editors of Reader's Digest. But time was precious to him and he wanted to use what little remained to continue exploring other facets of Martí's life and searching for the new and unknown, which was his life's passion. Ripoll was always too occupied making new discoveries about Martí — that is, changing and augmenting the facts of his biography — to actually write his biography, or, rather, to take a cache image of something that was always in flux thanks to him. But now that his pen is stilled, it is possible, indeed essential, for someone to synthesize his discoveries and give us a biography of Martí that incorporates them, which, by virtue of that fact, will be the definitive biography.
I will not say that this is the biography that Ripoll would have written if he had had the time and inclination. I will say, however, that it is the closest approach that we will ever have to a one-volume biography by Ripoll. Moreover, López's admiration for Ripoll is the surest guarantee of his intellectual honesty and his impeccable lineage as a martiano. We quote from the Acknowledgments page of his book: "Astute readers will note one particular name that figures prominently in this book's bibliography. Carlos Ripoll (1922-2011) was the preeminent Martí scholar of his time, a tirelessly prolific researcher whose work on Martí remains unmatched for quality and range of vision. Although I have not always agreed with Ripoll's conclusions regarding certain aspects of Martí's life, I owe him a great debt for the substantial contribution his lifetime of work has made to this book."
No one who knows how vilified Carlos Ripoll was and still is among the official falsifiers of Martí's legacy in Cuba could imagine that praising him in such terms would ingratiate López to Ripoll's enemies and allow him free access to Cuban archives, which cannot be consulted without prior authorization from the Council of State. In fact, López, who was born in the United States, has never set foot in Cuba. And it is just as well, because the regime has decimated those archives, selling their choicest items to collectors abroad and not even bothering to preserve Xerox copies which would be proof of their sordid business. Ashes and sackcloth is all that awaits future historians in Cuba. To write about Cuba's past they will have to search the world for documentary evidence because nothing of value will remain in Cuba (fortunately, much of our history is in foreign archives).
Castro, quite literally, has robbed us of our present and our past; and those who have reconstructed that past, like Ripoll and López, have performed a service for our country. Of course, there have also been opportunists, like Louis Pérez and Laura Lomas, who, without compunction of any kind, have placed themselves at the service of the Castro regime and been rewarded for their obeisance (Pérez with a medal and Lomas by having her error-filled book mercifully ignored in Cuba). López should not be classed with them. Certainly his detractors should not announce before judging him that they have not and will not read his book, nor should they condemn him by association because they dislike some of his old college professors. They should read the book so that they can realize that a pernicious influence is harmless to a superior mind, and that the truth remains the truth even if mishandled by others before finally reaching unsullied hands. We are condemning ourselves to irrelevance if we dismiss by intuition what merits cognition, and what's more, recognition.
Before the publication of his book, López confided to me that he feared that it would become a target for hardliners on either side of the Florida Straits. I assured him that no reaction would be the most likely reaction. The official historians on the island, whose greatest shame is that in 56 years they have not been able to produce even one original biography of Martí, will likely remain silent if only not to call attention to that fact. As for the exile community, we have no official body to regulate the dissemination of Martí's works, as in Communist Cuba. I told López that he was free to write whatever he wanted without fear of retribution or even of criticism, since our veneration of Martí is too ingrained to take seriously anybody else's affirmation or denial. He was surprised that his book has indeed received a most cordial reception among Cuban exiles in Miami, not the death threats and firebombs which he expected (his old college professors, who lived in fear of assassination for reasons which they alone know, had no doubt warned him not to put himself in the crosshairs of their erstwhile bogeymen). So all had indeed gone exactly as I predicted to him, and López was convinced that toleration was now the order of the day among Cuban exiles, contrary to all he had heard from our critics, when, like a bad dream, the old specters from the past came out for one last bow.
It was my old nemesis Babalú which chose to dump on López's biography, after making it clear as a point of honor that the author of the blog post as well as the commenters had not read the book under review (except for perusing the illustrations). It is at times like this that I feel I did not waste two years of my life documenting in a thousand essays the shortcomings of that blog (which, incidentally, are much less today because I shamed all its principal writers into retirement). But I, like Ripoll, must move on, now only stopping to right the injustices that literally roll at my feet, as this one did.
Please note the crazy spelling of the URL below:
Tuesday, February 24, 2015
"120 years removed from that February 24th, which was as redolent with hope for our country as the present is bereft of it, Cuba finds herself in a more deplorable state than she did in 1895: then Cuba was a colony of Spain, now she is the fiefdom of one transplanted Spanish family whose patriarch fought with Weyler's forces against our independence. His sons, who head the criminal enterprise which has despoiled our country and enslaved her people for more than half a century, have attempted to co-opt Martí's legacy, proclaiming him the "intellectual architect" of their anti-Cuban Revolution though it is the negation of everything Martí lived and died for."
Continue reading here.
Saturday, February 21, 2015
Partly because it was not reported widely, or, indeed, anywhere, and partly because it is impossible to keep a perpetual deathwatch over the thousands of traitors who have destroyed our country over the last 56 years, it is not surprising but entirely explicable that I did not learn until today of Msgr. Carlos Manuel de Céspedes' demise, which occurred on January 14, 2014.
The news, many years after the fact, that a dear one has died in Cuba — an experience common to all exiles — can still be a devastating loss, whether mourned in or out of season. It is not so when an enemy's death catches you unawares. Then you feel that you have been somehow cheated out of the comfort which such news affords; not for that reason, however, would you wish that it were not so.
On his grave, literally, was placed a wreath of flowers from Fidel Castro.
Msgr. de Céspedes has returned the compliment in the only way available to a dead man: he has stated in a posthumously published book, Monseñor Carlos Manuel se confiesa, which was presented today at the Havana Book Fair, that he is convinced that Fidel Castro will go to heaven because "he deserves to." Previously, Céspedes had expressed a similar conviction about the sanctity of Ernesto "Ché" Guevara in an op-ed in Granma.
This man was once the Vicar General of Havana and President of the Cuban Conference of Bishops.
He would certainly have become the Archbishop of Havana if he had not lived openly and infamously with his boyfriend for many years. A little more discretion, though not much more, is required to occupy that position.
Now, we all know where Msgr. de Céspedes is going; he was preceded there by Guevara and will be followed by Fidel.
But before he disappears completely in a cloud of smoke, let us invoke his hallowed name (the only hallowed thing about him) for one last time:
Bishop Agustín Román Bequeaths $60,000 to Castro's Church
Carlos Manuel de Céspedes III
Wednesday, February 18, 2015
"Wherever man is born abandoned and left to fend for himself, with no knowledge of what came before him, there the Stone Age shall begin again." — José Martí
"En dondequiera que el hombre nazca abandonado a sí mismo y sin conocimiento de lo que le ha precedido, comenzará otra vez la edad de piedra". (Obras Completas, 22:306).
Sunday, February 15, 2015
This is Cecil Charles' earliest known article on José Martí, whom she had met for the first time some months earlier. It is written from Tampa on the day of Martí's triumphal arrival there, which indicates that Cecil Charles may have arrived with him or was at least present to witness his apotheosis, though it is unlikely that she was there by happenstance. As in all future articles, she introduces Martí to her readers as a man of uncompromising principles who is ready at all times to sacrifice his own personal interests on behalf of his country's redemption. To illustrate this point, she uses the same example in all three articles: Martí's voluntary resignation of his lucrative consular posts in New York in order to devote himself entirely to the cause of Cuban independence. She describes his physical appearance in glowing terms, again alluding to his "pale, fine face," his "almond-eyedness, and "dreamy expression." She says in the article that she had personally interviewed Martí for it, and it is undoubtedly so. In no other contemporary account do we find such a wealth of detail on Martí's life, details that could only have come directly from his own lips. Others, too, may have heard him say similar things but only Charles paid to his words all the attention that was due them and faithfully recorded and preserved what she heard, letting us decide its import. We only wish she had been around him more, for no other friend of Martí's came closer to becoming his Boswell. For more than 100 years it was not known that Martí was elected as a delegate to a workingmen's congress in Mexico. Finally, Paul Estrade found a mention of Martí's early syndicalism in a socialist Mexican newspaper, which, of course, led to a spate of articles about Martí as "champion of the proletariat." Only someone profoundly ignorant of Martí's life would have supposed him to be something other than a champion of the rights of the oppressed. Charles also mentions another fact of which history has left no trace even in musty newspapers, that Martí was offered the position of personal secretary to a Mexican governor, which because of his "lack of worldliness" he had turned down much to his later regret. (Let's be grateful that he did turn down the "secretaryship" or otherwise he might have ended up as another Cuban ornament of the Mexican judiciary). Cecil Charles mentions also that Martí was president of the Spanish-American Literary Society, to which she herself belonged. On one recorded occasion, Martí read to the assembled literati of New York works by such well-known Hispanic poets as "Magariños Cervantes, of Uruguay; Salvador Díaz Mirón, of Mexico; Julián del Casal, of Cuba; and Cecil Charles, of Costa Rica," as reported in Enrique Trujillo's El Porvenir. Cecil Charles ends her revealing sketch of Martí's life and work with a highly characteristic quote, which summarizes both: "My life has two purposes; the second of them is the unification in spirit, and in accord with their nature, of the Spanish-American republics: to explain them, maintain them, and defend them without offence to the United States. I have faith in the United States, when she comes really to know our countries and people. I shall live and die for Cuba — to unite her scattered elements, in order that we may live in justice, peace, and liberty after the inevitable war."
JOSE MARTI IN TAMPA
Much Importance Attached to His Visit in Relation to the Cuban Question.
The New York Sun
November 26, 1891
Tampa. Nov. 25.— Señor Don José Martí, the noted Cuban orator, poet and leader, arrived this evening from New York, and was welcomed. by an immense crowd of Cubans and Americans, with a slight sprinkling of Spaniards as well. Señor Martí has come to Tampa upon tho invitation of the Ignacio Agramonte Club, whose guest he is. To-morrow night he will take prominent part in the grand political jubilee to be held in Ybor City. Although tired from his long journey he responded cordially to the warm greeting extended to him by his Tampa friends. The welcome took the form of an ovation of remarkable proportions, with bands of music and the wildest enthusiasm. Señor Martí will remain until Saturday. His visit is looked upon as highly significant in relation to the Cuban question.
When a man deliberately resigns a Government appointment with several thousands a year and honors in proportion, and smilingly lowers his forehead to the grindstone of meek and patient daily toil at the most prosaic of occupations, in order, as he says, "to preserve his independence," one naturally regards him as a singular sort of an individual. When Mr. José Martí, some weeks since, telegraphed his resignation of the Consulship General of the Argentine Republic in this city to the Minister of that country at Washington, it was not any complaint on the part of the Spanish Government had compelled the act but because he felt the necessity of relinquishing a post in filling which he considered himself trammelled in his labors for his country's independence.
Martí had not been guilty of violence in speech, as was at the time suggested by newspapers. This Cuban leader is a man incapable of violence in speech or act. Mild, magnanimous, and large hearted, Martí is a man of strange and varied experience. He is but 38 years of age, yet the first glance at his pale, fine face, the complexion strikingly white in contrast to the jet mustache and crisply curling hair, would cause one to believe him older. A noble forehead and a slight tendency to almond-eyedness give him a dreamy expression. He dresses in black and wears on his wedding finger a wide band of silver with a strain of iron through it. On the ring is quaintly carved the one word, "Cvba," by which it may be seen that the one great love of his heart is his country.
For a wonder I had an opportunity to converse uninterruptedly with Mr. Martí. As a rule his little office is crowded with callers from 1 until 4 o'clock. During these three hours all the thinking Cubans of the city seem to flock around him. and now and then a newly exiled General from Cuba makes his appearance. They fight the old battles over and plan new campaigns. Cuban independence will come, they believe. as surely as the sun will rise and shine. It will come before long very long. Fusion complete is what the agitators labor for. The enthusiastic demonstration in Tampa. in which not only the 2.000 Cubans of that city take part but the Americans as well, and even a few Spaniards, the first effort of the sort since the war of 1868, is in pursuance of these ideas of fusion and united strength.
Martí, who was born in 1853, was still too young at the time of that war to be condemned to death. But, youngster as he was, the Spanish Government found that his ready pen and silver speech were calculated to aid and encourage the revolutionaries. Martí. not l6, was editing a small newspaper, the Devil On Crutches. The Government could not send this tender youth, with the dreamy, almond eyes, out to be shot like a dog. but it could send him to the Political Penitentiary. Here, forced to go barefoot with chain and ball attached to his ankle.the boy was set to work in the quarry breaking stone. A tiny statuette was made of him appearing thus, and some of the Cubans in this city possess this interesting work of art. From 4 in the morning until sunset young Martí pounded away at his stone-breaking, and at the end of the first week his feet were torn so that he could hardly walk.
In that prison, says Mr. Martí, were political prisoners nearly 90 years old and negro children of 12; idiot slaves of 100 and white lads of 14. Later, when he had been sent to Spain, Martí published a pamphlet on these prison horrors, and asked that they be remedied. He described them and set the. Spaniards face to face with them, but in vain.
The young man then, became a student at the university ot Zaragoza, where he obtained the degrees of licentiate at law and bachelor of philosophy and of letters before he was 21. He started a school for poor and ignorant creatures in a humble suburb, and there dwelt, suffering constantly from illness contracted during imprisonment, but not subdued. His parents, self-exiled to Mexico, required his presence, and he went. There the young idealist found shelter and friends, but was not worldly-wise enough to accept a proffered secretaryship from one of the Governors. He was elected delegate to a workingman's congress, however, and there and then began his literary life in earnest.
Martí is known everywhere in Spanish America: more widely known perhaps than any other individual living. Not only is he known as an author, orator, and teacher but also as a friend to all the Spanish-American countries. From Mexico he went to Guatemala to accept the chair of philosophy and literature in the university. The war having ended in Cuba, he wandered back to his beautiful island home, but he was not long there when everything of a revolutionary tendency seemed to concentrate in his personality. This was quickly perceived, and the Government said: "He must go to Spain at once." However, they permitted him to wander about Madrid and he soon escaped. He came to New York to head the revolutionary Junta at about the time of Calixto Garcia's unsuccessful expedition. Garcia was unable to get the other important chiefs to ally themselves to him. and did not understand how to control the revolutionary elements. The forces were surrendered and the effort fell through. Martí arrived in time to explain the state of affairs and to save many persons from going to die when the sacrifice would have been useless.
After this Martí went to Venezuela. He would neither solicit nor accept any Government post from Guzman Blanco, but turned professor. He also founded the Venezuela Review. Then he came to New York, and here this remarkable man divides his time in hours of labor and hours of good works. Articles from his pen are eagerly sought by the Mexican and Central and South American journals. His mornings are devoted to literary work; his early evenings to classes in languages and literature. He is President of the Spanish-American Literary Society, and presides over its meetings on alternate Saturday evenings.
Every Tuesday evening, on leaving bis classes in Sixty-second street at 9:30, he makes his way down to a certain humble hall in Bleecker street, where is gathered a number of wonderfully intelligent young colored men intent upon educating themselves. Tired as he is, Mr. Martí is always happy to get to these honest and ardent young friends. They gather round him with faith and affection; they ask him all sorts of questions, historical, moral, sentimental, political, physiological, theological, metaphysical. He comes in with his pale, smiling face and his wonderfully magnetic presence, like an animate encyclopaedia, and he does not leave until nearly midnight.
"My life." says Mr. Martí, "has two purposes; the second of them is the unification in spirit, and in accord with their nature, of the Spanish-American republics: to explain them, maintain .them, and defend them without offence to the United States. I have faith in the United States, when she comes really to know our countries and people. I shall live and die for Cuba — to unite her scattered elements, in order that we may live in justice, peace, and liberty after the inevitable war."
Martí is a man of modest and almost ascetic life. The jubilee welcome extended him by the Tampa people was unsought by him, and undesired save as an expression of progress of the movement toward independence. The Cubans in New York are at work quietly and intelligently. Gens. Maceo. and Flor Crombet bide their time in Costa Rica. "No annexation, but independence," is the watchword. It is only natural to suppose that Martí will be chosen President of the new Island republic.
This article was graciously provided to us by Professor Jorge Camacho.
Friday, February 13, 2015
Does Cecil Charles (aka Lily Curry Tyner), Martí's friend, translator and self-acknowledged "lover," deserve her own blog?
Deserve it or not, she has one:
Cecil Charles Blog
I think she would be pleased that her blog and Martí's are hosted by the same individual, a fellow translator of the Versos sencillos and one of the few people living today who knows her name and is acquainted with her life and works.
I should ask no more for myself in the inscrutable future.