Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Did José Martí Live and Die in Vain?

Was José Martí's life lived in vain and was its sacrifice to no purpose? There are questions which one would prefer not to answer because it is better not to answer them: better in the sense that more harm would be done by answering them than by leaving them unanswered. This is not such a question.

Martí's life and death matters to our country as no other event in our history does. Without Martí, Cubans might be anything, but they wouldn't be Cubans. Our national character is an extension of his idealized conception of us. We see ourselves through his eyes and he only saw the best in us. The confidence that he instilled in us has remained unshaken even as everything that once supported it has collapsed in a heap around us. But for Martí we could not bear to look one another in the face. Thanks to him, we have reason enough  to believe that we are not defined by our current circumstances, that our destiny will transcend the void of our existence and deliver us safe to a new life. That we have persisted in that belief in the face of unrelieved disappointment  proves that Martí did not live in vain.

But even if Martí had lived and died in vain, it would not mean, however, that he was a failure; for he is no way responsible for the acts of those who betrayed our country and his legacy. Our enemies credit him with their crimes and failures, calling him the "intellectual author" of their anti-Cuban Revolution. They claim his inspiration in order to disparage him by laying the blame for their misdeeds at his feet, as if by this putrid offering they could acquit themselves of the blame and transfer it to him. Castro has reinvented Martí as our national scapegoat in opposition to his rightful place as our national savior.

We who are true to his legacy want for our country exactly what he wanted. We know that the only way to honor Martí is to believe, as he always did, that our people aspire to liberty and require only the means and the opportunity to assert their rights. The indifference, or, rather, the complicity of the world in their enslavement — which is even more the case today than in Martí's day —  is the greatest obstacle facing our people and the only bulwark left to our enemies.

Only the greatest disdain for the Cuban people would maintain that an inhuman existence is what they desire or deserve, or that their unrelenting degradation is preferable to questioning the actions and motives of those who have enslaved them.

Martí's life and death is a negation of that position, and as long as the Cuban people remain stateless within their own country, Martí shall be as relevant and indispensable in forging our future as any living man.

Martí did not die in vain, nor does he live in vain. "A man must be useful even after he is dead; therefore, I write." And his writings, which do not require any historical context because his words are as timely now as when he wrote them, speak to us across the decades of the same hunger for liberty and thirst for justice which is not lessened because it remains unsatisfied, nor can ever disappear till it is assuaged.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Barack Obama and Raúl Castro: Perfect Together

Some may have experienced a "Woe is Me!" moment when the putative leader of the Free World shook hands with the world's oldest tyrant and pledged him his troth, but not me. Barack Obama and Raúl Castro do not meet on different moral planes; neither do they represent the polarities of good and evil. Barack Obama, who was the only U.S. senator to vote on three distinct occasions for partial birth abortion — the murder of babies that have completely exited the birth canal, since banned by the U.S. Supreme Court — and Raúl Castro, who has always been his brother's enforcer and relished that role since his days as a teenage serial killer in the Sierra Maestra Mountains, are not on opposite sides of humanity's struggle for freedom and human rights. Obama aspires to the "glory" of Neville Chamberlain and will sacrifice the honor of his country and the lives of 11 million Cubans to obtain this worse than empty prize.

The Castros have waited 50 years for a sucker of Obama's magnitude to be elected president, and then six years more for him to be in a position to surrender unconditionally to them, as they have always demanded. Barack Obama is truly their messiah: the dim light that signaled to them their hour of redemption. Raúl Castro has said it: it was in Obama's book that he first took the measure of the man. And the first thing that Raúl learned was to massage Obama's ego: praise him to the skies and cheat him while he's not looking at his cards but tracking his own trajectory in the heavens, otherwise known as his "legacy."

It should be pointed out, however, that what Obama has done is to codify a longstanding U.S. policy towards Cuba which no U.S. president before had dared to articulate but which could not be more evident: the Americans prefer a stable Cuba that is not free to a Cuba that is free but not stable. As the guarantors of stability on the island (and nothing is more stable than a cemetery), the Castros long ago became "our sons of bitches" in the eyes of U.S. policymakers.

Castro and Obama: Practicing Genocide as Statecraft

Sunday, March 29, 2015

"Fidel Castro Sent to Siberia"

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

"José Martí: A Revolutionary Life" by Alfred J. López

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

El Grito de Baire (1895-2015)

"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

Msgr. Carlos Manuel de Céspedes (Gone and Quite Forgotten)

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

The Stone Age in Cuba (1959-?)

"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).