Saturday, October 20, 2012

Fidel Castro (1926-2012?)

A Celebration Without a Victory

I'm trying my best to get in a festive mood but I can't seem to manage it. I suppose because there's nothing to celebrate. The death of Fidel Castro will not be the end of Castroism in Cuba much less the re-birth of freedom there. Even his death per se is far from satisfactory. Death is a biological certainty. It comes to all men regardless of the good or evil that they do in life. There is nothing retributive in it. Castro's death is no exception. It is ridiculous to regard it as our "victory." If anything it is his victory: Fidel was never brought to justice for his crimes and his death guarantees that he never will be. The biggest mass murderer in the history of the Western Hemisphere will die in his own bed. Can any of us say with certainty that he shall do the same? Millions have expired in the last 50 years who asked for nothing more than to die in their own country yet their prayers went unanswered just so that he might become the first dictator in Cuban history to die in his own bed.

A death like Che Guevara's was worth celebrating because it signified the triumph of justice.

Castro's death confirms only the injustice of life.

The bottles of champagne that were purchased 50 years ago to toast the re-birth of freedom in our country have all now turned to vinegar. It is only these bottles that should be opened on the occasion of Castro's death.

Gall is the only drink that befits such an occasion.

RCAB, January 16, 2009

On the Day that Fidel Castro Dies

I do not know if Fidel Castro is dead or not. I have accepted, however, the fact that there will be no final reckoning extracted from him, nothing as poetic as Mussolini's corpse dangling upside down in a gutter or Ceausescu's riddled with bullets in a pool of his festering blood. We shall have no such national catharsis. Even Hitler's fate, execution by his own hand as the Doomsday clock ticked, he has avoided. The architect of our country's ruin will die in his own bed, as no other Cuban dictator has done before. The chaos of 50 years, in whose maelstrom he lived and thrived, shall survive him; but he shall no longer be at the center of it. It is not known what if anything he will take with him, but one thing is certain: if our country is ever to move beyond him, Fidel Castro's physical existence — animal, vegetable or mineral — must finally lapse and resolve itself into innate matter. He will be less dangerous that way, though his maggots will continue to feed on our country for years to come, continuing his work of destruction after him.

Fidel's death by installments, which is a measure of justice for him and injustice for us, served the ends of his successor by allowing him to consolidate his power in his brother's shadow. It also showed the Cuban people how truly irrelevant Fidel had become except as the bogeyman of all their nightmares. In two years the Cuban people have become comfortable with the idea of a moribund-to-dead Castro. Those who regarded him as a god must have been surprised at how easy it is to let a god die. The impact of his death, if not thus diluted, might have caused more of a national convulsion. Now it is but another sham spectacle that they must endorse with their presence. At least the professional criers that followed 19th century funerals were compensated for their tears. That work now is obligatory and unavoidable. There will be tears enough to shed on that day, not for him, of course, but for everything that he blighted and obliterated in his passage through the earth.

RCAB, January 15, 2009

Thursday, July 05, 2012

July the Fourth

"Esta tierra mágica y clemente, que llama a sí a los tristes y sin cansarse amasa panes para todos los que se proclaman sus hijos". — José Martí

"This magical and merciful land that beckons the unfortunate and tirelessly kneads the bread for all who proclaim themselves her sons." — José Martí

Monday, July 02, 2012

Laura Lomas Continues to Defame José Martí: Part 2

In her article in Translation Review, which runs 22 pages (including endnotes), Laura Lomas does not have much room to exhibit her prodigious ignorance of Martí's biography, or, perhaps, after her tour de force in Translating Empire, she no longer has anything to prove (certainly not to us). Still, the reader who has the patience to chop through the weeds will not go unrewarded; the field may be smaller but that very fact allows a more careful inspection and greater scope for presenting our findings in this limited space:

p. 13 "Translation serves [Martí] as a method of defining his own, his region's, and his diasporic community's perspective and concerns in relation to the 'other America' (OC 6:34), or [to] 'the America that is not ours' (OC 8:35)."

We are still waiting for Lomas to explain how Martí's translation of Hugh Conway's Called Back or Thomas Moore's Lalla-Rookh, not to mention his projected translation of Dianah Mulock Craik's John Halifax, Gentleman -- all from English/Irish authors -- "serve[d] him as a method of defining his own, his region's, and his diasporic community's perspective and concerns in relation to the 'other America,' or the 'America that is not ours.'"

p. 13 "[M]artí translated from English to Spanish, but also from French to Spanish, and in a few instances (and most likely in collaboration with others), from Spanish to English."

Martí also translated from English to Portuguese while employed at the commercial firm of C.[arlos] Carranza & Co., 60 Wall Street, from 1883 to 1885. (Yes, Martí worked on Wall Street. In fact, among the Papeles de Martí, collected by Gonzalo de Quesada y Miranda, there is a letter of recommendation on Martí's behalf from C. Carranza & Co. to W.R. Grace & Co.).

p. 13 "Martí initiated the translation of [Helen Hunt] Jackson's bestselling novel [Ramona] at his own expense."

Martí's friend, the Uruguayan diplomat Enrique Estrázulas, to whom Versos sencillos is co-dedicated, paid for the printing of Martí's translation of Ramona.

p. 14 "Another way of categorizing Martí's translations might be to divide them into self-initiated projects (translations of Hugo, Jackson, excerpts of prose and poetry of Emerson, Whitman, Longfellow, Renan, Poe) that reveal Martí's criteria in electing to make certain texts and authors available to readers of Spanish, and projects that Martí completed at the behest of others."

In 1874, while briefly in Paris, Martí was introduced to Victor Hugo by the poet Auguste Vacquerie (whose brother Charles was married to Hugo's daughter). Hugo presented Martí with a copy of Mes Fils and entrusted to him the Spanish translation. Clearly, this was not a "self-initiated project" but one that Martí "completed at the behest of [Hugo]."

p. 14 "[M]artí's primary goals as a translator were to guarantee his América's sovereignty, and to liberate and culturally enrich Hispano-American literature."

Those were the primary goals of some of his translations (e.g. Ramona and the anti-Cuban editorial in The Manufacturer, which was re-printed and refuted by Martí in The New York Post). As for other translations, see note above [p. 13/1].

p. 16 "[M]artí translated from the belly of the emerging U.S. empire."

Not very "emerg[ed]" at the time of Martí's death, nor destined to expand much after. In fact, this "U.S. empire" contracted more in the 20th century than it expanded.

p. 16 "This history of dislocation, after serving a prison sentence for his anti-colonial beliefs, after residence in various Central and South American nations and Spain as part of a Latin American and Caribbean diaspora, and with a canny sense of U.S. aspirations to 'take' his island and control or exploit aspects of other Latin American countries, led Martí to theorize translation (and its prerequisite, multilingualism) as a weapon for counteracting a complex of racial and imperial discourses about his América."

What it led Martí to do was to sacrifice his life (see his final letter to Mercado). Nothing could be more ridiculous than to suggest that "to theorize translation (and its prerequisite, multilingualism)" was the culmination of Martí's "history of dislocation" and the "weapon [slingshot?] for counteracting a complex of racial and imperialist discourses about his América." As a would-be translation theorist herself, it is perhaps not surprising and to some degree excusable that Lomas would seek to enlarge that minor aspect of Martí's literary legacy; but to place it center stage and make Martí's entire life the prelude to it is nothing but self-serving. Despite her frenzied efforts (and because of them) no one in the future will ever "privilege" Martí as the "Heroic Translator."

p. 17 "[Martí's] defense of mother-tongue maintenance parallels his stalwart endorsement of self-government according to the unique cultural situation in the region."

Any author that would coin such an abomination as "mother-tongue maintenance" and does not have Helen Keller's excuse should take to heart and follow the maxim (slightly altered here) that they also serve who only stand and teach. Forget about "publish or die." Some academics will teach longer the less they publish.

As for Martí's "stalwart endorsement of self-government," it was never contingent, as Lomas suggests, "on the unique cultural situation in the region." This implies that the absence of self-government (such as in Cuba) could be explained or even excused by "its unique cultural situation" -- that is, a culture of tyranny, which is indeed "unique" in the region, though not without would-be imitators. I pointed out in Part 3 of my review of Translating Empire that Lomas is obsessed with the culture of the volk as the defining principle of government and source of its legitimacy, which is a position that Martí never held. Democracy, not caciquism, was Martí's programme for Cuba. To admit that fact discredits "Cuba's current government," and Lomas never does. Carried to its logical (or illogical) conclusion Lomas' (not Martí's) theory of self-government would legitimize the ancient Aztec practice of infant sacrifice, which is at the very heart (no pun intended) of Mexico's auctonomous culture, and explain the results of Sunday's presidential elections on the basis of it.

p. 17 "In light of Martí's utopian desire to build a print community of Spanish speakers that extended across national borders [...]."

This is the second time (see main review) that Lomas refers to Martí's ideas as "utopian" (and it won't be the last). But what is so "utopian" about "build[ing] a print community of Spanish readers that extended across national borders?" Martí did precisely that many times. His crónicas were reprinted throughout Latin American (often without his permission) and made Martí the region's first internationally syndicated columnist.  La Edad de Oro circulated throughout the Hispanic world. Indeed, Martí's contemporary fame as a writer was not so much national (his writings were rarely published in Cuba) as international.

p. 18 "This brief article celebrates a fellow Cuban translator, Gabriel [de] Zéndegui, who taught literature in the United States during a period of twenty years."

Gabriel de Zéndegui did not teach "literature in the United States for a period of twenty years." In 1882, he consulted Martí about relocating to the U.S., and did so briefly (1885-1888) before settling in Argentina. La Nacíón, probably with Martí's recommendation, appointed him its foreign correspondent in London, which position he exercised for 14 years. Upon the inauguration of the Cuban Republic, in 1902, Zéndegui was named Secretary of the Legation there. He resided continuously in England from 1888 until his death in 1922.

p. 18 "Martí lived in New York in the wake of a failed Reconstruction that witnessed the rise of lynch law and Jim Crow, the Asian [sic] Exclusion Acts, and massacres or military subjection of native peoples."

It's the "Chinese [not 'Asian'] Exclusion Act" [singular], signed by President Chester Arthur in 1882. No other exclusion acts were enacted in Martí's lifetime. (The Immigration Act of 1924 excluded for the first time other Asians besides the Chinese).

Too bad that the current sufferings of Cubans under military subjection (which include lynch law, Jim Crow, massacres and exclusion acts) are of too recent vintage to merit Lomas' attention much less condemnation. We do not doubt (how could anyone doubt it?) that these outrages would meet with Martí's disapproval, however.

p. 19 "En Arkansas se unieron texanos y arkanseños, y mujeres y hombres, y quemaron contra un pino a un negro untado de petróleo."

         "In Arkansas, Texans and Arkansinos, women and men, came together and burned at the stake of a tree a black man covered with tar." [Lomas' translation]

In the translation of this one sentence Lomas manages to confute burning at a stake with tar and feathering, and tar with gasoline. Tar and feathering, which involves the application of tar to the skin and then feathers, though undoubtedly painful and humiliating, was rarely fatal. Burning at the stake always was. The black man in Arkansas who was tied, probably with chains, to a pine tree and set on fire, was not "covered with tar" but with gasoline, which is the correct translation for Martí's "petróleo" in American English. Tar in Spanish is alquitrán or brea, which Martí does not use (and which the white mob wouldn't have used either because tar is not as combustible as gasoline). Martí knows the difference between tar and gasoline, Lomas obviously does not, and transfers her ignorance to Martí in her translation. In the process, she diminishes the horrific act depicted by Martí with the introduction of extraneous words ("stake" and "tar") and awkward phrases not in the original ("the stake of a tree") which are intended to "refine" Martí's prose but only succeed in redefining (and corrupting) his meaning. She also does not identify the tree as a pine, which, supposedly, could supply her superfluous tar. We suspect that Lomas replaced gasoline with tar because she thought Martí's use of "gasoline" was an anachronism. In fact, gasoline is a naturally occurring by-product of petroleum (and hence did not have to be "invented") and it was in commercial production long before it was used as a fuel in automobiles. The word itself dates to1865.

p. 20 "No longer a pure, homogeneous essence or a biological or genetic principal [sic], the logic of diaspora opens the social formation of diaspora to a range of languages and cultural practices."

Yes, this is nonsense, complete and utter nonsense: not only doesn't it mean anything, it is also ungrammatical. As has been noted previously, Lomas, an assistant professor of English at Rutgers, doesn't know the difference between "principle" and "principal" and uses them interchangeably in Translating Empire. In the four years since her book was published, she has apparently remained clueless. How this is possible for a supposedly bilingual speaker we are hard-pressed to explain since "principal" is not only spelt the same but has the identical meaning in both Spanish and English. A monolingual English speaker might have difficulty distinguishing between "principle" and "principal" (it is a common error). But how can someone who knows Spanish make such an error in English? In the next paragraph, Lomas uses "principle" correctly ("a principle of hospitality"). Like Aunt Ri's quilt in Ramona, "it's called her 'hit-er-miss' pattren," though with Lomas, unlike Aunt Ri, it's "miss" oftener than its "hit."

p. 21 "Giving the lie to claims about equal opportunity and myths of justice for all in the United States, this use of translation as thinking-across reveals the possible terrors that posed a bodily threat specifically to a heterogeneous, racialized or non-standard-English-speaking group, living in the North."

Lomas does not specify who is "giving the lie to claims about equal opportunity and myths of justice for all in the United States." But since the article is about Martí and his use of translation, we must presume that she means Martí. Isn't it interesting how Martí spoke in the 19th century in the same terms ("equal opportunity" and "justice for all") as we do today? It would be interesting if he had, but he didn't. This is not to say that Martí did not decry racism and injustice. He did, wherever he found them, and he did not only find them in the United States. Ironically, it was only in the United States that Martí found "equal opportunity" and "justice for all" for himself -- not in Cuba, not in Spain, not in Mexico, not in Guatemala, not in Venezuela; nowhere but in the "other America."

p. 21 "Translation as thinking-across [...] promotes inclusiveness across differently racialized ethnic groups in the "hybrid" and "mestizo" imagined community of Martí's America."

Martí did not have to "imagine" Our America to be "hybrid" and "mestizo" because it was (and is) hybrid and mestizo. What he never imagined, however, is that some day the "Other America" would also become hybrid and mestizo. (Please note that Lomas is afraid to use those words except with quotations marks, as if the existence of hundreds of millions of people could be put in doubt by affixing them).

p. 23 "Martí practiced and endorsed a radical nationalist politics throughout his life, a discourse that can become complicit in reinforcing cultural conformity and ethnolinguistic intolerance of difference."

Out of the blue, without presenting any evidence to support her contention, Lomas accuses Martí of being potentially "complicit in reinforcing cultural conformity and ethnolinguistic intolerance of difference." Let us suppose that she is right (while bearing in mind that she never is). Shouldn't a people be allowed to evolve its own culture and is it "intolerant" to prefer one's culture to all others? Conformity is not tyranny unless it is enforced at the point of a gun (as in Castro's Cuba). Nor are all differences to be applauded and embraced -- that doesn't multiply choice, but, rather, eliminates it. And that, too, is tyranny.

p. 26. "[Martí] concurs with [Ernest Renan] that nations are social constructions, and that modern humanity will eventually be undivided by the barriers of nationality and free from threats of aggression. However, [...] this utopian view already appeared hollow, with imperialism stalking the more vulnerable parts of the world in the nineteenth century."

This is the third time that Lomas characterizes Martí's views as "utopian." The more humane and idealistic that Martí is, the more "utopian" he seems to Lomas. I do not personally share this "one world" view of the future. I neither believe it possible nor desire it. But I admire those who can and do. It is to me proof of a belief -- almost religious in nature -- in the perfectivity of man and inevitability of justice. We would expect Martí to espouse such a view. This is the Martí that we know and love: the "Universal Cuban." Because I admire him, I do not discount the possibility that he might be right any more than I would dismiss the likelihood that Jesus Christ is right. "Utopians" are ineffectual men, which defines neither Martí nor Christ.

p. 28 endnote 3 "Gabriel García Márquez revindicates underpaid translators and acknowledges his preference for some passages of Gregory Rabassa's translations of his work into English over the original in 'Los pobres traductores.'"

I repeat it only because it is to the credit of a fellow Cuban: García Márquez actually said that he prefers Gregory Rabassa's English translation of One Hundred Years of Solitude to the original. This is very high praise indeed even from a cretinous apologist for Fidel Castro.

p. 29 endnote 6 "Martí refers to his attempt to translate Hamlet, and notes in his fragmentary writings that he couldn't get pass the scene of [the] 'sepulteros,' a probable [emphasis mine] reference to Act V, scene i, when two gravediggers pull out Yorick's skull as they prepare Ophelia's grave (Martí, Obras Completas, 22:283)."

Probable? How many other "sepultero" scenes are there in Hamlet?

p. 29 endnote 9 "In 1896, Appleton published a twelve edition of [Martí's translation of Hugh Conway's novel Called Back], available in the New York Public Library."

I own the twenty-third edition, published by D. Appleton and Company, in 1908. Very successful indeed.

p. 30 endnote 14 "Martí encouraged second-language learning as a means of self-defense in a night school on 63rd Street between 2nd and 3rd Avenues run by Federico Edelman:

"Hombre que no conoce la lengua del país en que vive, es hombre desarmado. Bien harían en pasar las noches desocupadas en la clase de Edelman los cubanos que se sientan como desvalidos, por no hablar la lengua rubia, en esta tierra que tiene en poco a los que no le contestan en su idioma preciso y áspero" (Patria, 9 [de] marzo 1894).

"A man who does not know the language of the country in which he lives, is an unarmed [disarmed] man. Cubans who feel defenseless [helpless] for not knowing the high-toned [blonde] language in [of] this land where one is belittled [held in little regard] for not answering in their [its] necessary [precise] and rough [brusque] language, do well to spend their free evenings in Edelman's class."
[Lomas' translation with intercalated corrections].

This translation is deficient on many grounds. A foreigner feels disarmed because he does not speak English, not "unarmed." He could learn English, as Martí suggests that he should do, and then no longer be disarmed. If, as Lomas translates, he were "unarmed" -- that is, without the aptitude or the means to learn -- it would be impossible for him to overcome that limitation or profit from Martí's practical advice. Cubans, Martí writes, feel "desvalidos" (helpless) because they don't speak English; this is not the same as feeling "defenseless," which implies that they are under attack. Nor does Martí say that they are "belittled" because they don't know the "blonde language" (which Lomas somehow manages to translate as "high-toned language"); but, rather, the U.S. "[los] tiene en poco," that is, holds them in little regard because of it. Once they can answer natives in their own "precise and brusque language" they will no longer be considered of little account because the U.S. is a democratic and classless society where immigrants do not face insurmountable obstacles to integration and success. Martí certainly does not consider learning English to be an insurmountable obstacle (as proponents of bilingual education do today). What Lomas construes as "a revealing comment about discrimination faced by non-English speakers" is in fact Martí's summons to his exiled countrymen to avail themselves of the opportunities afforded them to realize their full potential in American society.

Not only does Lomas tendentiously mistranslate Martí here, but she has no idea whatever of the context of this particular quotation because of her less than serviceable knowledge of Martí's biography. She is unaware that Federico Edelman's night school class was held at a public school under the auspices of the New York City Board of Education. What Martí endorsed was a government-sponsored and taxpayer-supported program to assist newcomers with language acquisition which disproves by its very existence Lomas' (not Martí's) contention that non-English speaking immigrants were under siege, "unarmed" and "defenseless," in a hostile America.

Moreover, Lomas incorrectly surmises that the "school on 63rd Street, between 2nd and 3rd Avenues [was] run by Federico Edelman," which it was not. Edelman only taught an English class there, as Martí clearly states in the paragraph cited by Lomas. But this is not the worst of it: Lomas is apparently unaware that Martí himself had only recently been a teacher at that very building known as Central Valley Evening School, located in the premises of Grammar School No. 74, at 220 East 63rd St. Martí had been hired as "Instructor of Spanish" there in January 1891, and his appointment was renewed for 1892 and 1893, though he presented his resignation at the end of 1892. Lomas quotes Martí's praise for Edelman's interlingual approach to teaching English through Spanish. This is all very well, of course. She could, however, have quoted Martí's own summary of his approach to language instruction, which is contained in a "Synopsis of Methods of Instruction in the Various Branches of Studied Pursued" at Central Evening High School: "The instructor in Spanish [Martí] reports that his aim has been, 'to teach strict grammar without appearing to teach it.' The language was taught by pronunciation, orthography, dictating nightly different forms of sentences to the students, and then more elaborately as they showed signs of progress. The relation of Spanish moods to those of other languages was fully set forth. Commercial letters and short descriptions were written by the students, and corrected by the teacher from time to time. Constant use of the black-board familiarized the minds of the students with the ideas imparted by the instructor."  [Journal of the Board of Education of the City of New York, New York, 1891, pp. 690-692].

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Laura Lomas Continues to Defame José Martí

As readers of JMB know, I have already devoted three lengthy posts [Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 ] to reviewing Laura Lomas' Translating Empire: José Martí, Migrant Latino Subjects, and American Modernities. The experience was not pleasurable for me and cannot have been pleasurable for even my most indulgent readers. But it was necessary, and, indeed, unavoidable. The misrepresentations of Martí's life and work contained in this volume could not be overlooked, nor the author's conscription of Martí into the service of "Cuba's current government" (as I've already remarked, as "current" as 1959). Does this mean, however, that I am obliged henceforth to review all her writings on Martí and point out what is wrong with them? Yes, I'm afraid it does, at least until she stops writing about Martí or desists from distorting Martí's writings. It is just as important to expose false lights as it is to keep the beacon burning.

Lomas' latest screed was published in Translation Review 84 (Spring 2011), the journal of the American Society of Literary Translators. I am unaware that Lomas has ever translated anything in her life except snippets of Martí's writings culled from Esther Allen's Selected Writings and "worked over" to Lomas' satisfaction (that is, until they say what Lomas wants them to say). Not being a translator, however, is no disqualification for writing on translation theory. A study in English of Martí's ideas about translation would be a welcome addition to the literature. It would not be difficult to write such a study. By faithfully copying what Martí says about translation even Lomas might manage it. Unfortunately, neither Translating Empire nor her latest journal article come close to being such a study. Knowing, as we already do, that propaganda and not scholarship is her object, there is no reason to expect Lomas to impart knowledge for its own sake when it doesn't advance her political agenda.

As I've pointed out before, Lomas is constitutionally incapable of devising a cogent title, and what is labelled incorrectly can never be wholly trusted. She came closest with the original title of her doctoral dissertation, "American Alterities: Reading between Borders in José Martí's 'North American Scenes,'" which except for the "Alterities" was almost a catchy title. This later transmogrified into the wholly unintelligible Translating Empire: José Martí, Migrant Latino Subjects, and American Modernities. In Translation Review, Lomas delivers herself of: "Thinking Across, Infiltration, and Transculturation: José Martí's Theory and Practice of Post-Colonial Translation." If she would only discard what's left of the semi-colon, she would make more sense, though the "Post-Colonial" part is debatable and only her extremist politics would lose by its omission. Martí did not live to see the post-colonial era, which was a blessing for Martí and a calamity for Cuba. If Lomas means that he anticipated it, she should say that and explain how. Because Martí thinks and writes outside the constructs of colonialism does not mean that he was a "post colonial translat[or]" or a post-colonial anything.

Most of Martí's contemporaries and many of his predecessors also exhibit in their writings the same total rejection of colonial preconceptions which characterizes Martí's own thinking. How far, then, are we to set this "post-colonial" tendency within the colonial era? Certainly as far back as Félix Varela and more than 70 years before Martí's death at Dos Ríos. But rejecting any personal investment in colonialism, or even undermining its political foundations, is not the same thing as defeating it, and colonialism must be defeated for good and all before the post-colonial era, or, specifically, post-colonial conditions, can shape what is properly called post-colonial writing (or translation). No Cuban, not even Martí, predicted what post-colonial Cuba would be like. Such prevision, incidentally, would probably have killed the independence movement in its cradle. Resignation to quasi-colonialism as the successor regime to colonialism may be cultivated after the fact but it can never be the goal of any revolution and was not the goal of Martí's revolution. This post-1898 colonial reality was never envisioned by Martí, nor is any period in Cuban history more at odds with his conception of a republic (with the exception, of course, of our own). The abrogation of the Platt Amendment in 1934 was the real culmination of Martí's Revolution, and of that he was certainly the "Intellectual Author."

I have detected one important break — and too many inconsistencies to cite — between this article and Lomas' book. In Translating Empire, Lomas forcefully (and foolishly) denied that Martí was an exile, arguing instead that he was a "migrant," though Martí always described himself as an exile and never once as a "migrant" or "immigrant." Here, however, she departs without excuses from one of the principal underpinnings of her book. She still alludes to Martí's "migration" and his "migratory position in New York," as well as to his "migrant's perspective;" but, at the same time, she refers to Martí as "a deportee in exile" and comments on his "exilic situation in New York." It is Lomas who has posited that you can't have it both ways. Nevertheless, sometimes both ways are not enough for her, as she also alludes to Martí's "extra-domestic or diasporic location." Perhaps it's just a case of elegant variation gone amok; but one who places such importance, as Lomas does, on differentiating these terms, should not use them interchangeably. Even foolishness must be consistent if it is to be taken seriously.

I am not going to discuss Lomas' theory of Martí's theory of "post-colonial translation" since the object of her theorizing does not exist. Suffice it to say that it is as convoluted, and, ultimately, as meaningless as any other of her theoretical constructs. But lest it should be thought that I am dismissing her ideas without a hearing, here is her conclusion: "Martí's theory and practice of translation, transferring texts from a dominant to an imperial-turned-minority language, as a non-assimilating migrant in the United States, generatively open concepts of the nation, of race, and of transnational formations such as diaspora to redefine them in terms of ethnic and linguistic heterogeneity." Here, as elsewhere in her writings, language is used to conceal rather than to reveal her meaning, or, perhaps more likely, to disguise the absence of any meaning. If there ever was one it was lost in a maze of subordinate clauses winding their way to a dead end. It is like reading German with its periodic sentences cruelly shorn of their far-ranging verbs. Lomas knows the mechanics of a periodic sentence up to and short of a point, but cannot bring the sentence to a successful conclusion precisely because she has no point to make about translation as translation.

She has much to say, however, about translation as something other than translation: "Language becomes the site where a Latino American cultural critic such as Martí uses translation to problematize U.S. nationalism's inability to recognize the rights of minorities — racialized by their language or ethnic difference — in the nation, or to respect the sovereignty of 'minor' nations in its imperial backyard." This is one of the few Lomasian sentences that can itself be translated into standard English: Martí uses language, or, specifically, translation, to address the problem posed by the inability of a nationalist United States to recognize the rights of minorities because of language and ethnic differences, or to respect the sovereignty of less powerful nations in its imperial backyard. Now this makes sense. The thought expressed by Lomas is just as hopelessly trite and even banal; but now it can be understood in all its triteness and banality. Before, mired in language that attempted to elevate triteness by raising its vocabulary, it sounded self-important without being important. Bereft of its rhetorical strait-jacket, the idea, though it has no wings, is at least honestly pedestrian. The author herself could do worse than to be honestly pedestrian. Her contribution to Martí studies (such as it is) would not be diminished because of it.

Lomas' politics are easier to follow than her theoretical formulas or attempts at deconstruction because here, at least, dissembling does not suit her purposes: she can be as anti-American (or, as she would say, anti-United Statesian) as she would like Martí to be and credit him with all her fashionable prejudices. To wit: "Martí sought to counteract an unrealistically hopeful view of the United States that might lead his compatriots to identify with a North American culture and political model." Yes, Martí always sought to "counteract"  unrealistic estimates of the United States (or of any other country) because they distorted reality; but he never denied the reality, which would have been to distort it himself. Martí embraced and engaged U.S. culture as no other foreign intellectual before or since, and he adopted its political model as his own, as is evident in the democratic structure of the Cuban Revolutionary Party and of the future Cuban Republic which he envisioned in the Manifesto de Montecristi. Instead of goading his fellow Cubans to reject "North American culture and [its] political model," Martí identified what was best about them and encouraged their emulation while warning of deviations and distortions (to that model) that should be avoided, not only by his countrymen but by Americans themselves, whose democratic evolution and progress were also important to him (as attested to in thousands of his pages). It is better, in any case, to have "an unrealistically hopeful view" of U.S. democracy than "an unrealistically hopeful view" of Castroite tyranny, which is Lomas' problem.

When Cuban Communists (or any Communists) assail the United States, it is always its government, never its people. Lomas herself has no such scruples: her disdain is sufficient to cover not only the U.S. government and all aspects of American society, but also and particularly its people; and she would have us believe that Martí shared the same animus toward Americans that she admittedly does. She faults Martí, however, for  "express[ing] a utopian view that with more knowledge, the average U.S. citizen-subject might unlearn imperial privilege and radically change his or her attitudes towards his América and people, here and abroad." In fact, Martí would have rejected (and did reject) any suggestion that Americans were inherently predisposed to imperialism or racism, or that such was their irrevocable destiny. It is such assumptions, which are based on racist generalizations and a sense of privilege founded on a paradigm of eternal victimhood, that Martí combatted all his life and his writings still challenge. For Lomas' information, the American people overwhelmingly supported the cause of Cuban independence in 1850, 1868 and 1895. It was successive U.S. administrations which flaunted American public opinion until 1898 when the "Free Cuba" movement was too powerful to be denied. Today also, and for the last 53 years, Americans have opposed the Castro regime and its subjugation of the Cuban people (with few exceptions such as Lomas herself). Now as in the 19th century, U.S. betrayals — and there have been many — were the handiwork of the imperial presidency, not of "the average U.S. citizen-subject," as Lomas calls the freest man in the world.

Where did Lomas pick up the idea that Martí wanted to reform Americans by purging them of their sense of "imperial privilege," which enterprise Lomas considers impossibly "utopian" because her fellow Americans are, in her estimation, inveterate imperialists beyond all reclamation as well as perennial bad neighbors? Lomas herself answers the question: "Martí is not alone in this optimism: one of his greatest interpreters, Cuban statesman, poet and literary critic Roberto Fernández Retamar, noted that "[t]he U.S. was neither born a monster, nor will it remain so forever." If Lomas had praised Fernández Retamar as a poet or critic — leaving aside politics as if this were possible in so politicized (comprometido) a writer — we would not care about her valuation of him. But how exactly can one be a "statesman" in the service of a dictatorship? When statecraft is reduced to sycophancy the statesman is only a more successful courtesan, and in the same measure as his talents are great so will his abject submission be blameworthy. How can Fernández Retamar be "one of [Martí's] greatest interpreters" when he doesn't even understand that being an apologist for tyranny contravenes all that Martí did or said in his life? One can be many things and still be a martiano; but an apologist for tyranny — and an unrepentant one at that — never. Praising Fernández Retamar in such terms pretty much says all there is to say about Lomas' critical and moral faculty while putting her in league with other "interpreters" who debase themselves by debasing Martí.

Lomas subscribes to the liberal conceit that true patriotism consists of hating one's country, whether that country is the U.S., whose democracy she bashes continually, or Cuba, whose dictatorship she extolls at every opportunity. Worst of all, she is obviously convinced that evil will triumph in Cuba forever, and that it will always be fashionable and renumerative to be an apologist for tyranny. She is wrong. But she is also so insignificant that it will matter to no one that she was wrong.

[I owe my readers a rest. But I am not finished with this review and shall return to point out its factual errors in Part 2]. 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Sección Constante 4: Bishop Agustín Román Bequeaths $60,000 to Castro's Church

Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami (and, btw, why is the archbishop of Miami surnamed "Wenski?"), who is as much Cardinal Ortega's collaborator as the Cuban primate is Raúl Castro's, has announced that the late Bishop Agustín Román bequeathed $60,000 in his will to the Diocese of Matanzas, headed by Bishop Manuel Hilario de Céspedes y García-Menocal. Bishop Céspedes is the younger brother of the notorious Msgr. Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, former chancellor of the Havana Archdiocese and Secretary of the Cuban Conference of Bishops. This Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, the great-great grandson of the Father of Our Country, would be the black sheep of any family. An Epicurean rather than a Catholic (not that the two are incompatible in practice), Céspedes drives a Mercedes-Benz and owes a multimillion dollar art collection acquired after 1959 by exploiting the misfortunes of his ertswhile social equals. His worst crime as a Cuban and as a priest, however, was to inform against Father Miguel Angel Loredo, who spent 10 years in prison as a "counter-revolutionary" because Céspedes resented his popularity and viewed him as a potential rival. (It would be impossible to summarize in a few words the utter vileness of the elder Céspedes. I did try once, however, in a thousand words in the Review of Cuban-American Blogs. His picture, included there, is at least worth another thousand).

The younger brother was an electrical engineer when the elder convinced him, at age 36, to enter a seminary. Rev. Manuel de Céspedes was created a bishop shortly after having been ordained a priest. Interestingly, the elder Céspedes was never elevated to the episcopacy, which may have something to do with his open co-habitation with a "dear friend." Or perhaps his sin was to be unapologetic about his personal conduct. He once wrote an article for a church publication [Palabra Nueva, indeed!] advocating civil unions for homosexuals and greater tolerance within the church for their "rights." The article, published in the July-August 2007 issue, long ago disappeared from the digital archives of the magazine and now Msgr. Céspedes is restricted to writing paeans to "Ché" Guevara in Granma, where he regrets that he never met the Argentine psychopath and homophobe, which is like a Jew regretting having never made Hitler's acquaintance.

The Bishop of Matanzas keeps a much lower public profile than does his brother. Bishop Román's posthumous gift of $60,000 to the younger Céspedes' diocese is certainly less controversial than if he had left it to Cardinal Ortega, who, nonetheless, may have ultimate control of it. I do not know the reason for this gift. According to Wenski, it is not the first gift by Román to the Cuban Church, though it is certainly the first to be publicized. I do not doubt that Wenski himself contributes a good share of the tithes from Cuban exiles to the support Cardinal Ortega and the other Cuban bishops. Perhaps by publicizing Bishop Román's largesse Wenski hopes to justify his own conduct as well as to encourage exiles to open their purses to Castro's mitered apologists and to the Church that sanctions their betrayal of the Cuban people in some kind of perverse tribute to Román. Ultimately, however, it is exiles in Miami who are responsible for both their indirect donations to the anti-Cuban Church and their indirect donations to the anti-Cuban State. An exile blog unconditionally opposed to sending remittances to Cuba nonetheless hailed this biggest of all remittances to date as a humanitarian gesture deserving of commendation. Such may have been its intent but such is not its effect.

Although Bishop Román was a revered figure in the Cuban exile community, who never lent aid and comfort to the Castro regime, before or after the triumph of the Revolution, I will not make apologies for Román that I wouldn't make for Wenski. In fact, since Román knew infinitely more about the reality of life in Cuba under Castro than Wenski will ever know let alone acknowledge, it is even more inexcusable for him to enrich a Church that has cast its lot with Christ's enemies in Cuba. If he did not know or could not accept this fact, then he is guilty, at the very least, of self-delusion. Reality has thrust its sharp edges into all our lives for 53 years. Delusion at this juncture is not only inexcusable but culpable.

Surely Román's life savings of $60,000 could have been put to better and more honorable use. He could have destined the money for a radio campaign in Miami to discourage congregants from donating one cent to the Catholic Church until it repudiates its unholy alliance with the Castro dynasty. That, of course, would have required a degree of moral greatness which is so rare that it could be called saintly. Still, even short of this, there is much good that he could have done with the money: perhaps used it to feed and house the Cuban political prisoners who were forcibly deported to Spain with the collusion of Cardinal Ortega and abandoned there; or to provide health insurance for the 300 elderly survivors of the Bay of Pigs, who, though practically destitute, refuse to accept U.S. veterans' benefits because they were volunteer soldiers in the service of a free Cuba, not paid mercenaries or a supernumerary brigade of the U.S. Army. He could have established a Human Rights Prize with the money, which could honorably have borne his name. Built a monument to the 15,000 Cubans who died with the cry of ¡Viva Cristo Rey!" on their lips. He could have acknowledged, in death as in life, his commitment to the cause of Cuban freedom. Instead, Bishop Agustín Román threw his bread in a stagnant and festering mud hole.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Sección Constante 3: AIDS in Cuba According to "The New York Times"

The two dozen mercenary wars of aggression on the African continent in which Fidel Castro involved Cuba over the last 53 years, always on the side of the most brutal and genocidal of the belligerents, and ostensibly under the banner of "internationalism" — which simply meant the promotion of the Soviet Union's geopolitical interests — are responsible, among other evils, for the introduction of AIDS to Cuba, which now harbors 21 strains or mutations of the virus, more than are found in any other country outside of Africa, with 11 of the 21 being unique to the island. Cuba is, in fact, a "wildlife preserve" for AIDS, which only the most draconian measures, such as can only be implemented in a society with no civil or human rights, prevented from exploding into a national pandemic on a scale never before seen in modern history.

The New York Times, in a front page article in its Science Section [May 8], entitled "A Regime's Tight Grip on AIDS," identifies this genetic variety of AIDS strains as "a legacy of [Cuba's] foreign aid." So initiating or escalating wars that cost millions of African lives and not a few Cuban lives as well was in fact a beneficent act of the State. The 12-year Angolan War, which lasted longer than any previous conflict in Cuban history and four times longer than the Cuban Revolution, was no more than a "foreign aid" program — the Cuban Peace Korps, if you will — which considerably and considerately reduced the number of natives killed by AIDS by shooting them before they contracted AIDS. As for the "doctors, teachers and engineers" also sent to Africa as "internationalists" — which The Times does not distinguish from the soldiers, hoping to disguise the soldiers' mission as a humanitarian one — they also were under the control of the Cuban military and acted in support of it. The "foreign aid" that these "internationalists" rendered in Africa as the Gurkhas of Soviet Empire added immeasurably to the misery of that beleaguered continent and threatened also the well-being of their own country. Castro brought Cubans to Africa, and Cubans brought AIDS to Cuba.

It is strange that Ronald Reagan is still blamed for fostering AIDS with his silence, while Fidel Castro, who is personally responsible for introducing AIDS to Cuba, is now acclaimed as "prescient" by The Times for taking politically-incorrect measures, including forced quarantine, to combat the virus. Can you imagine what The Times' reaction would have been if Reagan or even a president it actually liked had tried to implement similar measures here? You don't have to imagine it because The Times carried out a great preemptive campaign in the 1980s to make sure that the civil rights of people with AIDS and HIV were not compromised in any way in this country, even if this meant discarding traditional medical protocols for dealing with infectious diseases. But now the position of The Times appears to be that one can't argue with success and it is convinced that "there is no question that [Cuba's methods] have succeeded" because "it had an early and effective response to the epidemic" while the U.S supposedly did not: "[Cuba's] infection rate is 0.1 percent, on a par with Finland, Singapore and Kazakhstan. That is one-sixth the rate of the U.S., one-twentieth [that] of nearby Haiti." Personally, I'm more impressed by Haiti's progress because at least we know that its health statistics, which are compiled by the World Health Organization (WHO), are not "cooked up" by Castro's medical propaganda office, as Nick Eberstadt of the Harvard Center for Population Studies proved years ago.

Besides "the government's harsh early tactics — until 1993, everyone who tested positive for HIV was forced into quarantine," The Times identifies four "other elements [that] have contributed to Cuba's success: it has free universal basic health care; it has stunningly high rates of HIV testing; it saturates its population with free condoms, concentrating on high-risk groups like prostitutes; it gives teenagers graphic safe-sex education; [and] it rigorously traces the sexual contacts of each person who tests positive." The Times does not realize, apparently, that these other elements are, in their own way, as coercive as forced quarantine, and a continuation of, rather than a departure from, those "early harsh methods." "Universal basic health care" in Cuba means that you have no choice but to submit to whatever the State determines is in your best interest and the best interest of society. There is no "opting out" of this absolute control because there are no alternatives to it (that is, no private insurance, no private doctors and no private hospitals). The "stunningly high rates of HIV testing" are possible because testing is not voluntary: the State decides who will be tested, when they will be tested and how often they will be tested. If Cuba "saturates its population with condoms," it is the only thing it "saturates" them with. At the height of the Special Period in the 1990s, when Cuba was in the grip of not only AIDS but famine, condoms were universally melted and used as a cheese substitute in homemade pizzas. The fact that now condoms are chiefly distributed among prostitutes suggests that the Cuban regime is interested in protecting sex tourists, not the general population. If it were interested in protecting Cubans it would not promote the island's tourism industry on the basis of its sex trade. The "graphic safe-sex education" for teenagers does not require parental consent since all children in Cuba are legally wards of the State, which may decide, without consulting the parents, all facets of their lives and education. And, finally, the State does "rigorously trace the sexual contacts of each person who tests positive," and the word "rigorously" here means punitively, since a failure to disclose such contacts can still get you confined for life at a state sanitarium. Moreover, homosexuals with HIV or AIDS who are known or presumed to be promiscuous are just as forcibly committed to state institutions as they were before 1993.

"By contrast [to Cuba]," The Times notes, the response in the United States [to AIDS] is "feeble" [italics mine.]" "Feeble," because the U.S. has a functional rather than an ornamental Constitution; "feeble," because it has an American Civil Liberties Union which fought in the courts against mandatory disclosure of HIV status; "feeble," because it has hundreds of advocacy groups for AIDS and Cuba doesn't have even one; "feeble," because its liberal media, led by The New York Times, opposed all measures that would protect society at the expense of an individual's supposed "right to privacy;" "feeble," in sum, because the United States is not a one-party dictatorship which aggregates to itself every power and is above every law.

I still did not expect The New York Times, however enamored it might be with Cuba's "robust" AIDS policy, to use the words "mere" and "only" when referring to the number of Cuban casualties from AIDS or the number of Cuban AIDS cases. And yet it did. Communist Cuba, it reports, "has one of the world's smallest epidemics, a mere 14,038 cases" and "only 2,364 Cubans have [died of AIDS]." As usual, The Times will renounce all its cherished principles and even its hallowed prejudices in order to praise Fidel Castro. And henceforth we can expect the words "mere" and "only" to be banned as qualifiers for AIDS cases or AIDS deaths reported in The Times. True adulation reveals itself in the exceptions that it makes without justification or apology.

The article profiles a Dr. Jorge Pérez Avila, who is described as "Cuba's best-known AIDS doctor." Dr. Pérez, we are told, "has memories of helping his bus driver father make gasoline bombs to throw at the police during the Batista government" (we doubt that any such bomb was ever thrown at the "police"). "As a teenager he dropped out of school to live in the mountains, teaching villagers to read under a literacy program after Castro came to power." That's as far as Dr. Pérez's exemplary vita curriculum goes before he discharges the office for which he has been introduced, namely, to exalt Fidel Castro:

"In 1983, Fidel Castro visited the Pedro Kourí Institute, Cuba's top tropical disease hospital, to hear a presentation on malaria and dengue fever.

"As it ended, he suddenly asked the director, "Gustavo, what are you doing to keep AIDS from entering Cuba?

"Dr. Gustavo Kourí, son of the Institute's founder, was caught off guard, Dr. Pérez said, and stammered: 'AIDS, comandante, AIDS? It is a new disease. We don't even know whether it's produced by a bacteria, a virus or a fungus. There isn't much data on it, just what's been reported in the United States and a few cases in Europe. It will take time to know how big it is.'

"Mr. Castro replied: I think it will be the epidemic of this century. And it's your responsibility, Gustavo, to stop it becoming a major problem here.'

"This was before any American president publicly uttered the word 'AIDS.' Asked how Mr. Castro could have been so prescient, Dr. Pérez struggled to find the right word, then said: 'Castro has luz larga" — 'big lights,' the Cuban slang for automobile high beams. 'He reads a lot. He sees far ahead.'"

Now take a breath because swallowing that cannot have been easy.

A doctor who does not object to having confidential mail from his patients intercepted and read by Fidel Castro — presumably because the letters cast him in a good light — and literally "led a '¡Viva, Fidel!' cheer at his hospital's World AIDS Day" festivities, does not seem the ideal source to attest to Castro's "prescience," and his retelling, 30 years later, of a conversation to which he was not a party, and which casts Castro as the all-knowing hero of Cuba's fight against AIDS, would try the credulity of anyone except a New York Times reporter or editor.

While indulging such anecdotal sycophancy, The New York Times, not surprisingly, failed to mention in the article the biggest AIDS story out of Cuba in the 1990s — the widespread self-contamination with the virus, through improvised transfusions of contaminated blood (yes, blood transfusions, not needle sharing) by disaffected youth seeking shelter and better food in AIDS sanitariums. But, of course, that would sound a discordant note in The Times' rhapsody to a "Cuban society that is the opposite of puritanical [whorish?]; [where] scanty clothing is routine [because clothing is scarce]; and suggestive flirtation is common [is there any other kind?]. 

You would think that after nearly 60 years of covering Fidel Castro and being lied to and defrauded by him, The New York Times had learned its lesson. Unfortunately, it seems that every generation of Timesmen must learn the same lesson over and over again. There is no collective memory at the so-called "newspaper of record," only permanent amities and enmities. Fidel Castro has been on The Times' "Friends List" longer than any other foreign dictator. The Times has always had a vested interest in his success since Castro is so much its own creation. Every failure — and there have been only failures — has caused The Times to redouble its efforts on his behalf; and even as he totters on the edge of the grave, it still has his back. Since Castro seized power in 1959, The New York Times has never published an editorial calling on him (or his brother) to relinquish power. Loyalty such as that would be worthy of admiration if its beneficiary were not an enslaver of men.

Finally, The Times needs to do a little fact checking: Fidel Castro has never publicly said that he regrets imprisoning homosexuals in labor camps, but that he wasn't told about it at the time (his "prescience" must have failed him then); the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution are not "defenders of Cuban democracy;" and the purchase of U.S. medicines by Cuba has never been prohibited by the trade embargo.

I have just realized that I neglected to credit the author of this screed, which seemed to me a group effort even if not identified as such. In any case, the byline belongs to Donald G. McNeil, Jr., identified by The Times as "a science and health reporter specializing in plagues and pestilences," who is shown in his official Times bio posing next to the rear end of a camel. In the picture (soon to be taken down, no doubt), McNeil looks more like an Arabist than a chronicler of plagues.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Sección Constante 2: "Gud Bai Presidente"

Hugo Chávez must really be dying. The New York Times is disgorging itself of its accumulated cache of puff pieces on the Venezuelan dictator in the hope that it will do him some good, since psychologically it appears that he's failing even faster than physically, and his psyche was never as dependable as his stamina. The article in The Times Sunday Magazine [May 6], entitled "Must Watch Television. Literally," and subtitled "Hugo Chávez's long-running, totally bizarre talk show, 'Aló Presidente,' is a throwback to an earlier era and a completely different kind of reality TV," unravels in the first paragraph whose concluding sentence can also serve for its motif: "The show is entirely unscripted." It is also "compelling, especially from afar," "surreal and even slightly voyeuristic," "part performance art and part gleeful absurdism," instinct with a "wacky quality" and "exuberant weirdness," which left the author "fascinated," "puzzled and entertained" -- and even "mildly thrilled" -- by "the most real reality show I'd ever seen," and again, within the same paragraph, "the only really real reality show out there." When Donald Trump "fires" an "apprentice," it's not real. But when Hugo Chávez fires a judge, he had better flee the country if he can and while he can. Yes, reality doesn't get any more real than that. A gun at your back is always real and compelling. Whether it should be "entertaining" or "mildly thrilling" to a third party is another question.

The author, Rachel Nolan, first saw clips of Chávez's show while following him on Twitter. Later she must have acquired the complete collection, of, say, a 1000 DVDs, and admits to watching "Aló Presidente" for hours on end. In what is undoubtedly the highest compliment that The Times can pay to Chávez or anybody, Nolan writes that "one precedent for his show is F.D.R.'s fireside chats" (which proves that she never listened to those). Another precedent, unmentioned by Nolan, is Joseph Goebbels' weekly "guns or butter" radio exhortations. Chávez's television persona has little in common with Roosevelt's dignified avuncular presentation, but there is a direct line of descent from Goebbels' on-air histrionics, with the same name-calling and threats, real and veiled. Chávez's buffoonery, however, is copied from his mentor Fidel Castro, who was always a carnival barkman for big and small ideas whose time had passed; and his show, in particular, is inspired by Castro's last performance on state television in an infomercial for a (defective) rice cooker, which he boasted could "make more rice with less rice."

Chávez's own bizarre conduct on "Aló Presidente" — which shames all self-respecting Venezuelans — Nolan is inclined to excuse because (quoting Enrique Krauze) "it gives Venezuelans at least the appearance of contact with power" (the kind of "empowerment" experienced by Hitler's German shepherds), and because, in her own estimation, "it would be hard to overstate the pride that Venezuela's poorest and most marginalized feel in having a black-white-indigenous man as their democratically [?] elected president." To say that this alleged "pride would be hard to overstate" — that is, that almost any exaggeration of it would be allowed — calls into question the very thing that is being claimed. It would be as ridiculous to assert that the 50%+ of the population that do not support Chávez (who are, also, overwhelmingly non-white) are ashamed of him because he is black-white-indigenous like them. If Chávez were white, of course, the author would write about the pride that Venezuelans feel in having as their president a white man who feels and acts, with and for, the black-white-indigenous people. The U.S. media did that for Bill Clinton when they labelled him "the first African-American president;" surely they would have acclaimed Chávez the "white hope" of the mestizos if he had not himself been one. It is Chávez's politics that matter to the media elite, not his color. Batista wasn't white, and the pride that Cuba's poor and marginalized felt for this self-made-man was so great that they sat out Castro's middle-class revolution. Of course that did not stop The New York Times from supporting Castro.  

The repeated suspension of "Aló Presidente" while Chávez seeks medical treatment in Cuba is more newsworthy today than the show itself ever was. This hiatus or "non-show" is Venezuela's version of "Beat the Clock," except that if Chávez can't an entire nation wins. And not just Venezuelans. Cubans also have an interest in the outcome, although history has shown that the Castros can survive without a sucker to stake them, and have no compunction at all — in fact, may prefer — to starve the Cuban people into submission rather than lull them into complacency with half rations. The co-dictators' only concern is that without Venezuela's oil they may actually have to liquidate some of the family's foreign assets to underwrite the machinery of repression on the island. That would hurt them, and both Fidel and Raúl have a very low threshold for pain as most sadists do.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Sección Constante 1

JMB received a visit this week from the Justice Department (or "" as it's identified on Sitemeter). It was brought here on May 2 by a Google search for "May 20, 1902." Now this is interesting. It used to be the custom under President George Bush to celebrate Cuban Independence Day at the White House. Obama discontinued the practice, whether because he did not wish to offend the Castro regime, which abolished its commemoration after it had declared Cuba a Marxist state; or because the Cuban-American worthies who were traditionally invited to this affair by Bush were not to Obama's liking nor he to theirs. It would appear, however, that the Obama administration may be reconsidering its decision this year, for two reasons: because it's an election year and Florida is as important this time around as it was in 2000; and because it now has its own coterie of "House Cubans" that it can invite, including Saladrigas, one Fanjul, and Joe García. I should not be surprised if my old nemesis Alejandro ("Alex") Barreras took my old nemesis Val Prieto's place at this event.

In any case, you can read what the Justice Department found so interesting here. And if you want to know what is this "Sección Constante," go here.


What does a six-year old Cuban boy who saw his mother drown and was himself almost eaten by sharks have in common with a blind Chinese man under house arrest who scaled a 20 foot wall before undertaking a perilous 300-mile trek on his country's underground railroad? Well, of course, Elián González and Chen Guangcheng shared the same quest for freedom and the same destination, and when it seemed that they were at last in possession of what they sought and clearly deserved, their hard-won prize was taken from them because of political expediency, moral equivalence, and the congenital inability of U.S. liberals to tell right from wrong, or good from evil, which too often leads them to put their faith in tyrants and dismiss the witness of their victims.


Nobody has said it so I guess somebody should: the Pope and Cardinal Ortega killed Bishop Agustín Román. He died of a broken heart because he believed in his church and in his country. Nowadays, it is not possible to believe in both. Either you desire a free Cuba or what the Catholic Church desires for Cuba: resignation to slavery and an entente cordiale with the slave masters.     

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Father Francisco Esquembre: The Patriot Priest

On this day, in 1870, Father [José] Francisco Esquembre y Guzmán (1838-70), parish priest of the church of Nuestra Señora del Rosario, in Yaguaramas, was shot by firing squad at Cienfuegos, by order of the military governor of Las Villas, for the "crime" of blessing the Cuban flag and preaching a sermon to the rebel troops in support of independence. Before his execution, and as the result of a canonical trial where the accused was not present nor a defense permitted on his behalf, Father Esquembre was ordered defrocked and thus deprived of the Church's protection. This was no mere formality: a notarized account exists of the actual ceremony, conducted in his jail cell, where the now former priest was stripped of his vestments and handed over to the secular authorities, which had already determined his fate.

If Cuba's Catholic Church today were a church militant it would honor the memory of the patriot-priest who acted as Father Varela would have if he had lived to see the dawn of Cuban independence. But the Cuban Church has never embraced Esquembre's example and prefers rather to forget it. The regime's official historians also see nothing to exalt in the conduct of a priest who defied his archbishop and the pope's pro-Spanish position to lend aid and comfort to his country's defenders. 

In 1868 and again in 1895, the hierarchy of the Catholic Church in Cuba as well as most of the clergy were in complete sympathy with the upholders of despotism on the island: priests received authorization to break the seal of the confessional whenever they suspected sedition against the Spanish Crown; funds collected in churches for charitable purposes were redirected to the prosecution of a war of extinction against Cubans;  the churches themselves were turned into forts and arms depots superintended by the resident priests; and some clerics, the most bellicose and reactionary, raised their own regiments and went into battle themselves. All that can be said on their behalf is that that they were following orders, not just from Madrid but Rome.

Pius IX (1846-1878) and his successor Leo XIII (1878-1903), who called themselves "the prisoners of the Vatican" because a resurrected Italy had annexed the Papal States and circumscribed their Lebensraum ("living space") from 41,440 sq km to less than half of 1 sq km, did not see any parallel (not that there really was any)  between their situation and that of hundreds of thousands of Cubans forcibly removed from their lands and imprisoned in campos de reconcentración. On the contrary, both pontiffs extended the papal blessing to the Spanish troops that were being sent to "pacify" the island. The Bishop of Santander personally conveyed the pope's message to the "new crusaders" (who included Fidel Castro's father): "You are the defenders of a just cause, a holy cause, the cause of right against wrong, of civilization against barbarism ... Since yours is a just cause, the Lord of Hosts is with you. His Vicar on Earth [the pope] blesses you, his bishops cheer you, and all true believers pray for you."

In 1898, after the sinking of the USS Maine, Pope Leo XIII offered himself as mediator between Spain and the U.S. to "avoid war." He was obviously oblivious to the fact that Cubans had been fighting a war with Spain for the last three years in which one-third of the island's population had already been decimated. His "good offices," which eventually proved ineffectual and unnecessary, had as their object the peaceful transfer of Cuba from Spanish to U.S. jurisdiction, thereby preventing a "barbarian" [i.e. Cuban] victory.

Both Pius IX and Leo XIII were beatified by Pope John Paul II and will likely be canonized by Pope Benedict XVI. One of the staunchest defenders of Spanish despotism in Cuba, Cardinal Ciríaco Sancha Hervá, Archbishop-Primate of Toledo and Patriarch of the West Indies, was beatified by this pope in 2007. Heaven, apparently, is filled with  enemies of Cuban freedom; and among living hierarchs, especially in Cuba -- but also in the Vatican -- it has no friends.

We do not doubt that Cardinal Ortega has already set up the statues of these "worthies" in Havana's Cathedral. There is an altar to them, anyhow, in what he is pleased to call his heart. But the Catholic Church has not erected even a plaque to honor the memory of the patriot-priest, whose example it would prefer to confine to oblivion.

On the "Paseo de Independencia," in Cienfuegos, a modest column was raised by public subscription to the memory of the patriots killed at the Campos de Marsillán. Father Esquembre's name appears there. This collective monument is the only one that commemorates his martyrdom.

But stone is not the only material for monuments, nor is it the most indestructible. Perhaps Martí was thinking of Francisco Esquembre, the priest whose last church was the woods where he offered his life for the redemption of his country, when he wrote in Versos sencillos:

Busca el obispo de España
Pilares para su altar;
¡En mi templo, en la montaña,
El álamo es el pilar!

Y la alfombra es puro helecho,
Y los muros abedul,
Y la luz viene del techo,
Del techo de cielo azul.

The sightless bishop of Spain
Wants pillars to hold his altar:
In my temple, on the mountain,
My pillars are made of poplar!

Of purest fern are the carpets,
And the walls are of birch tree,
And a brilliant light it gets
From a sky-blue canopy.

Reconciliation Follows Conciliation

"There can be no pardon when there has been no justice."José Martí, "Pushkin," 1880 [original in English]

The word "reconciliation" does not need to be defined. Everybody understands what it means and what it does not mean. Everybody, of course, except Cuba's Cardinal Jaime Ortega and Miami businessman Carlos Saladrigas: the one appointed by a foreigner to be a spokesman for Cubans on the island and the other appointed by the U.S. media to represent Cubans in exile. Their personal "reconciliation" would certainly be a success; in fact, we should be surprised if it were not already consummated. What relevance such a "meeting of minds" (and appetites) would have for the future of our country is another matter. Their followers, supposing they have any who are not on their payrolls, will propagate their gospel of reconciling the irreconcilable. Good and evil can never meet on a common plane without one ceding place to the other. Either good must be corrupted or evil reformed. And before there can be a reconciliation there must first be a conciliation.

A word much less commonly used today than reconciliation, and usually used incorrectly, "conciliation" is not synonymous with "reconciliation," nor is it the action which is repeated in reconciliation. As pertains to governance, conciliation means to gain the people's favor with acts that benefit and please them, which necessarily entails abstaining from behavior that would hurt and alienate them. Reconciliation denotes a failure of conciliation: either there has been no effort on the part of the rulers to win the good-will of the people, or the effort has been insufficient by miscalculation or design. After 53 years, it is safe to say that conciliation has failed in Cuba because of the policy of its rulers.

There can, of course, be no reconciliation without conciliation, just as it is impossible to "reintroduce" what was never introduced, "reformulate" what was never formulated, or "recombine" what was never combined. Those who clamor for "reconciliation" between the Cuban people and Castro's police state, or between those who oppose Communism and those who support it, or between anti-Castro exiles and Castro's agents in the U.S. — quite apart from the incongruity of expecting forgiveness from the victims but not contrition from the henchmen — have disposed of conciliation as an obstacle to reconciliation when it is in fact the only path to it. The oppressors must, at least, cease to oppress for there to exist any possibility of reconciliation. The apparatus of tyranny must disappear, and, yes, also the tyrants. Justice must be done. Then those who have vilified themselves in the service of tyranny may seek redemption by repudiating their indenture to evil and paying whatever lawful price their crimes may merit. Then and only then, when the oppressors have done all in their power to right the wrongs they have committed, achieving conciliation through this means — though never wholly expiating their sins, which would be impossible — then and not before will reconciliation be an option. Even then, it will be the victims that will set the terms, not the tyrants or the tyrants' lackeys.

Reconciliations work best when there is equal blame on both sides, or, at least, some blame in common. When all the blame is on one side only, it is not really reconciliation but forgiveness that should be sought by the offending party. In the end, however, whether for reconciliation or forgiveness, the same criterion holds: "There can be no pardon when there has been no justice."

Monday, April 16, 2012

Review of "Translating Empire" Part 3 (and Last)

As I acknowledged at the beginning of this review, it was not an easy task to read Laura Lomas' Translating Empire from cover to cover, and I suspect I am the only one who actually did. In fact, there is ample evidence to suggest that not even the proofreaders at Duke University Press did more than skim through it. Lomas, an associate professor of English at Rutgers University, doesn't know the difference between "principal" and "principle" and uses the two interchangeably throughout her book. Either the Duke proofreaders don't know the difference themselves (which is as unlikely as a car mechanic not knowing how to change the oil) or they were dulled into inattention by Lomas' ponderous style and thin sense, and decided, in the end, that nothing would be gained by making nonsense grammatical (which was a mistake, because much was gained by making Lewis Carroll and Edward Lear's nonsense grammatical).

A game that I played to keep me alert through this mind-numbing ordeal — one, no doubt, more constructive than identifying misused homonyms — was picking off the book's numerous historical gaffes, which demonstrate that this is in nowise a biography of Martí or even a critical evaluation of his writings with biographical underpinnings. What it is I still don't know for sure. Of Lomas' agenda, I have (and she leaves) no doubt: to re-interpret Martí through the bifocal lenses of historical revisionism and political correctness, which alternately exaggerates his accomplishments and diminishes them. Her assertion that she will not use Martí to criticize Cuba's "current government" (as "current" as 1959) is not matched by a reciprocal commitment to avoid portraying him as an apologist for the Castro regime. Her factual errors and errors of interpretation are useful in exposing her bias and undermining her arguments, and may be said to be an unintentional self-debunking of her scholarship, and, as such, the most relevant and "valuable" part of her book.

The field had already been weeded before I got there — not by the Duke proofreaders, but by her "colleagues" at the Centro de Estudios Martianos and a distinguished U.S. expert on Martí. The latter informed me that wagons full of miscellaneous errata were carted away. What was left hints at the magnitude of the original reclamation project. The remaining weeds, which might be called "structural" because their removal would have collapsed what was essentially swampland, I have uprooted myself with that purpose in mind. The gaffes I have already pointed out in the first two parts of this review are not repeated here. The rest are stacked, sorted and weighed for your consideration:

p. 4 "Martí observed the imperial project in the guise of a democratic republic from the perspective of the streetcar passenger, a participant in a demonstration for an eight-hour workday, or a person amid the throngs watching a burning building from the street."

We do not doubt that Martí rode on streetcars as a passenger, though we do not see what especial insight it would have given him on the "imperial project." We will even concede that he may have watched a burning building from the street, which, again, would have told him nothing about the "imperial project." But there is no record or testimony that Martí was ever a "participant in a demonstration for an eight-hour workday," which, if true, would have been one labor demonstration more than Marx ever attended. Even Martí's sympathy for an eight-hour workday, which we grant, has nothing to do with "combating the imperial project," since even when it was adopted the eight-hour workday did not preempt or defeat any "imperial project."

5. "The cultural processes of imperial expansion [what does this mean?] laid the groundwork for the annexation of the still colonized islands of Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines, among others."

None of these islands were annexed by the United States. Hawaii, Guam and the Virgin Islands, which were, are not even cited by name. The "among others" should be the centerpiece of Lomas' argument, not the "what ifs." Except that the "among others" do not advance Lomas' theory of an "imperial project" which encompassed Cuba, and which Martí supposedly fought by riding in streetcars, watching buildings burning and agitating for an eight-hour workday.

17. ...Martí's successor as spokesman for the Partido, Tomás Estrada Palma..."

The Delegado was much more than a spokesman (or "vocal") according to the precedent set by Martí and followed by Estrada Palma.

34. I would not define Martí as a North American or even as a U.S. Hispanic author."

I would and did in my "Introduction" to "Versos sencillos/Simple Verses: "Of Martí as a poet only one thing needs still to be said: From the death of Whitman in 1892 to his own death in 1895, Martí was the greatest poet, Anglo or Hispanic, in the United States at that time, a fact not known by many then or now. But since he wrote and published almost all his books in this country, in concert with, and often ahead of, the progress of American culture and literature, it is impossible not to consider him also a part of the U.S. literary heritage and certainly the greatest Hispanic contributor to it." In any case, it is surprising to see Lomas deny that Martí was a North American author if only because Cuba is in North America. Of course, she could argue that she is speaking politically, not geographically, her literary criticism of Martí being exclusively political.

35. "[Martí] the admirer of Abraham Lincoln."
38. "[Martí] the exile who loved Lincoln.

As a boy, Martí greatly admired Lincoln and even wore a black ribbon as a sign of mourning when the "Great Emancipator" was assassinated. His admiration was subsequently tempered by something he read in the memoirs of General Ben Butler, who claimed that Lincoln had confided to him his intention to negotiate for the expatriation of former slaves to the "basurero de Cuba."

35. [Martí] was the first translator of U.S. literature for Latin American readers."

There is no need to exalt Martí's reputation at the expense of the truth, especially when in doing so Lomas ignores or denies the considerable contributions of other translators of U.S. literature who preceded Martí by decades, most of them, incidentally, fellow Cubans, such as Varela, de Armas, Teurbe Tolón, etc.

36. Martí's interactions in English with neighbors and hotel employees who ridiculed his accent impressed upon him the stigma of being racialized in a xenophobic society."

Nowhere in Martí's writings do we find any mention of his being "ridiculed" because of his accent by neighbors, hotel employees or anybody else, let alone that such ridicule "impressed upon him [a] stigma" of any kind. On the contrary, Martí proudly recounts in his Notebooks an incident which occurred at a Catskills hotel when he alone was able to spell a certain English word that had stumped Anthony Comstock (the Victorian anti-profanity czar) and the other guests.

37. "[Angel] Ramos claims that Martí was 'one of the first intellectuals of the Latino community in New York.'"

Since Lomas cites but does not challenge Ramos' claim, we can presume that she also subscribes to it. It would be more accurate to say, however, that Martí was among the last — not one of the first — 19th century Hispanic intellectuals to reside in New York. Heredia and Varela preceded Martí in New York by more than 50 years, and Eugenio María de Hostos and Enrique Piñeyro were both prominent members of New York's Hispanic community before Martí's arrival in 1880. The names cited here would be on everybody's list of Latin American intellectuals; but if we define "intellectual" as a bachiller or university graduate — rare enough in the 19th century — there were certainly dozens and perhaps hundreds of Hispanic intellectual residing in New York before Martí and in Martí's day.

40. "Contemporary criticism that has begun to address Whitman and Emerson's condoning of manifest destiny retains an unacknowledged debt to Martí."

Who never addressed that issue directly or indirectly except in Lomas' imagination (see Part II of this review).

42. "[Martí was] a postcolonial migrant living amongst the fruit sellers, the newspaper urchins, and the boarding-house renters of Gilded Age New York."

Living and working, also, amongst millionaires, newspaper magnates, and the landlords of Gilded Age New York."

43. "Martí disidentifies with his Spanish and Canary Islander parents [and] traces his skin color to Moorish or North African origins..."

Since Canary Islanders are also Spaniards, we presume that she means Asturian and Canary Islander parents. In any case, Martí never disowned his Spanish heritage or "disidentified" with his parents. He proclaimed repeatedly his love of Spain and his admiration for its people. "Only those of us who have felt her lash across our backs," wrote Martí, "know what it is to truly love Spain." Nor does Martí anywhere in his writings "trace his skin color to Moorish and North African origins:" first, because his skin color was white (we know already Lomas' aversion to that color); and, secondly, because his origins were neither Moorish nor North African.

43. "The Cuban exile community, from Martí's time to the present, has included individuals or groups ranging from José Ignacio Rodríguez in the late nineteenth century to Luis Posada Carriles in the late twentieth century, who have worked covertly or overtly in the service of the U.S. government to promote annexation or undermine the island's self-government."

A false analogy intended to portray exiled opponents of Castro's dictatorship as American stooges or terrorists. The logical analogy, of course, is that over the last 200 years the Cuban exile community has included individuals ranging from José Martí to José Ignacio Rodríguez; and from Armando Valladares to Luis Posada Carriles. All of them, incidentally, wanted (or want) the defeat of despotism in Cuba, represented by Spain in the 19th century and the Castro Brothers in the 20th and 21st. Their means may have varied — from waiting for peaceful political evolution (Rodríguez) to precipitating an armed uprising (Martí), and from non-violent resistance (Valladares) to violent resistance (Posada) — but none ever equated dictatorship with self-government, as Lomas does when she asserts that opposing the current regime "undermines the island's self-government." Lomas herself, we are sure, would not have equated opposing Somoza to undermining Nicaragua's self-government (even if his Sandinista successors did transform Nicaragua into a satellite of a satellite).

45. "Julio Burrel — a young Spanish journalist who met Martí briefly in Cuba while the latter awaited his possible deportation to Spain's African colony, Ceuta — recollects Martí's explanation of his radical politics: "I, who am among you an equal, a peer and a friend, am to be [in Cuba] nothing but a foreigner. I am to live in tutelage, subordinate, under suspicion. All doors are closed to my rights, were I to seek justice, and to my ambitions, were I to legitimately pursue my ambitions."

Julio Burrel was not "a young Spanish journalist" when he met Martí, nor did they meet in Cuba. As related by Burrel, their one and only conversation, where Martí explains his reasons for being a separatist (not a "radical"), took place in the Madrid Atheneum when both were university students. It was recalled by Burrel in a newspaper article published after Martí's death and Spain's defeat.

47. "[Martí] recounts in his prison diary how his father visited him and was moved to tears by a suppurating wound in his son's leg..."

Martí never kept a "prison diary." The scene that Lomas describes appears in Martí's pamphlet El presidio político en Cuba (1871).

50. "...Martí crossed the Atlantic en route to America twice, and arrived at the port of Ellis Island several other times during his inter-American journeys."

Ellis Island was not opened as a port of entry for immigrants until 1892. Therefore, neither in 1875 nor 1880, the two occasions on which "Martí crossed the Atlantic en route to America," did he arrive at the port of Ellis Island. Nor did he disembark at Ellis Island during his later inter-American journeys. For these, Martí crossed the continental United States by train and entered Mexico by way of Texas, and then reversed the journey on his return. Lomas could have made much of this "migrant journey" and how it would be re-created (albeit on foot) by tens of millions in the 20th century; but, apparently, the false connection with Ellis Island proved a far more tempting motif.

50. "Martí's false testimony to the ship's captain [to whom the fugitive identified himself as an 'Italian musician' to avoid detection by Spanish spies] reveals how easily Martí could pass as a European. It suggests the route of settlement into European-American identity, an option that Martí vociferously opposed but nevertheless most likely benefited from in racially segregated United States."

So Martí, the son of Europeans, was not ethnically European? He only "passed" as European in order to benefit from the advantages that whites enjoyed in a racially segregated United States, an option which, according to Lomas, he "vociferously opposed" when exercised by others, making him, therefore, both an opportunist and a hypocrite. The reason for Martí identifying himself as an "Italian musician" has nothing to do with the doubtful privileges which Italian immigrants (the despised "dagoes") enjoyed in 19th century America. Lomas ignores the fact that Martí was a fugitive when he arrived in New York aboard the Celtic in 1875. Martí claimed to be an "Italian musician" on the ship's manifest to avoid detection by Pinkerton agents employed by the Spanish Consulate to track the movements of exiled revolutionaries in New York. In fact, Martí was not always able to escape detection; on his next trip to New York, in 1880, he was trailed for nearly a year by several agents assigned specifically to him.

54-55 "[Martí's 'Letter to The New York Herald' was] most likely dictated by Martí from his hammock in the Cuban army's camp to Eugene Bryson, a correspondent of the New York Herald... Perhaps in keeping with a final request from Martí, Bryson delivered the original Spanish-language transcription to the editors of Patria..."

How does Lomas know or infer that Martí dictated his manifesto "from his hammock?" Because it would have been nearly impossible to balance an inkwell on a hammock? Or, more importantly, how does she surmise that it was "most likely" dictated by Martí to Bryson, who did not speak much less write Spanish? The original of Martí's "Letter to The New York Herald" was in fact written in Spanish, as Lomas knows. Bryson conveyed Martí's letter to his editors in New York, who published a partial translation in The Herald. The Spanish original was printed in its entirety by Patria, which had requested it from The Herald. There was no "final request" from Martí to Bryson to deliver the original text to Patria.

55. "Martí's contemporary Cuban biographer and critic, Luis Toledo Sande."

Toledo Sande has not authored a biography of Martí, but a novel based on his life entitled Cesto de llamas ("Basket of Flames," in the English-language edition). No great harm would have come of Lomas treating Toledo's novel as a "biography," however, since even with its fictional episodes and invented conversations it is still truer to Martí's life than her own "factual" account. Still, it is disconcerting — to the reader if not to her — that Lomas would treat a novel as a biography, and it is hard to decide which would be worse — that she was knowingly fooled or that she knowingly fooled others.

64. "To study North American influences on Martí tends to cast the Cuban migrant in the condition of cultural indigence."

Why? Aren't all writers influenced by other writers? Why should Martí be the exception? Why does citing his influences reduce Martí (and only Martí) to "the condition of cultural indigence?" Is Lomas suggesting that such is the intention of those who point out these affinities? Then she has maligned every critic who ever wrote about Martí before her.

66. "In Martí's case, literary and political pressures have produced a writer who — rather perversely — has become the mouthpiece and eponym of ideas and institutions that are the strict reverse of those that he supported."

What "literary and political pressures?" Are these pressures on Martí himself, or on those who write about Martí? If the latter, the sentence should have read: "In the case of Martí's critics," not "in Martí's case." Grammatically, at least, it is Martí who is blamed for "perversely" succumbing to "literary and political pressures" which have made him "a mouthpiece and eponym of ideas and institutions that are the strict reverse of those that he supported." Can this really be what Lomas means? I suspect not. Parsing Lomas' convoluted sentences will not always yield her meaning, and sometimes, as in this case, she will end up saying something other than what she means to say (even the direct opposite of what she actually means). What she means to say, I think, is that other critics have "perversely" (that is, intentionally) misrepresented Martí's ideas and made him "the mouthpiece and eponym" for the opposite of what he actually believed. If this is her point, then Lomas is right. In fact, Translating Empire typifies what she decries. Her willful perversion of Martí's thought, evident throughout her book, does indeed misrepresent Martí as an apologist for "Cuba's current government," which is to say (though she never says it), tyranny.

67. "...Martí's less visible work — largely unexplored in the United States because of his status as a foreigner from Latin America — nevertheless makes possible a new turn in U.S. literary history."

Please re-read what Lomas writes on page 34 (above): "I would not define Martí as a North American or even as a U.S. Hispanic author." How to reconcile this past assertion with her contention now that Martí's work — and "his less visible work," at that — "makes possible a new turn in U.S. literary history?" Either, as I have argued, Martí is "also a part of the U.S. literary heritage and certainly the greatest Hispanic contributor to it," or he is not. Lomas cannot have it both ways.

82. "Martí's translated obituaries of North Americans, ranging from Thomas Alva Edison to Wendall Phillips — to which I now turn — teach us to read across languages and through the eyes and ears of the Latino migrant."

How exactly one reads through one's ears is a metaphorical (and metaphysical) question which we will leave unexplored. We will, however, observe that Martí did not write Edison's obituary. Edison died in 1931, thirty-six years after Martí.

90. Francisco Gonzaló [sic] Marín, eloquent Puerto Rican bohemian and Sotero Figueroa's adopted son..."

Marín was not Sotero Figueroa's "adopted son," and much more may be said of the Puerto Rican poet and martyr than that he was a "bohemian."

95. "Whether Martí joined the publication apparatus of La América out of stealth, naiveté, or necessity, he subverted the original publisher's promises to North American manufacturers while maintaining the English editorial template ['La América is a monthly review devoted exclusively to the development of the Export Trade of the United States with all Spanish-speaking countries", etc.] as a protective cover."

For Lomas, Martí is always acting "out of stealth, naiveté, or necessity," or, in other words, betraying his duplicity, betraying his stupidity, or betraying his principles for money. He did none of this when he joined the staff of La América, which he would eventually edit. Of course, his presence in the magazine changed and improved its quality and content. What else would one expect? Martí did not, however, change the mission statement or subvert the purpose of La América. Why would he do so when promoting trade and investment in Latin America was not something that was objectionable to him? In fact, promoting trade and investment in Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay, in particular, was also one of his chief functions as consul-general in New York for all three countries. In that capacity he answered the inquiries of merchants and potential investors regarding tariffs and resources and gave interviews in the English-language press publicizing the benefits (to Americans) of trading with South America. He also wrote dozens of ads in La América itself for U.S. products whose importation to Latin America would favor its development. How, then, can Lomas conclude that Martí was inimical to trade between the U.S. and Latin America or regarded it as harmful or exploitative while he was doing everything in his power to advance it, openly and without apologies? Because she doesn't base her arguments on the facts. Rather, it is her own "stealth, naiveté and necessity" which drives her to form conclusions (really speculations) which are not supported by the facts and which the facts refute. Her only recourse for disposing of these inconvenient facts is to challenge Martí's sincerity by claiming that he acted against his conscience, that his words and deeds do not define him, and that the transparency which was the hallmark of his public life was an imposture. It is easy then to attribute to Martí any position which Lomas thinks he should have held whether or not he did hold it. In her politically-correct imagination, she conjures Martí as an agent provocateur sabotaging from his modest editorial post U.S. commercial interests in Latin America and even undermining capitalism itself, perhaps by intentionally inserting typos or misplacing commas in the articles and advertisements which he wrote supporting the extension of inter-hemispheric commerce.

99. "Written by someone [Martí] who frequently walked through the city and belonged to the influx of furious or yearning migrants to New York's Ellis Island..."

Martí did not belong to "the influx of furious or yearning migrants to New York's Ellis Island." Martí arrived in New York from Europe in 1875 and then again in 1880. Ellis Island opened as a port of entry for immigrants in 1892.

100. "In the first five years of residence in New York, Martí was developing a critique of mistaken assumptions about the United States that had also been his. By 1889, Martí makes fun of the naive first impressions of a fresh migrant: 'Neither the gossip column, nor grumbling envy, nor rickety antipathy, nor the admiration of the recently arrived is an appropriate measure of a nation such as this."

Lomas does not appear to notice, though she quotes Martí in full, that among these "mistaken assumptions about the United States," and far more serious and misleading than "the admiration of the recently arrived," are the "grumbling envy" and "rickety antipathy" which she attempts to ascribe to Martí and which Martí himself rejects as "appropriate measure[s] of a country such as this." First impressions are tentative and can always be corrected; but there is something solid and intractable about "grumbling envy" and "rickety antipathy" which no amount of future experience is likely to reform. These distortions do not concern her, however, since they would tend to cast the United States in a less than flattering light. It is those awful first impressions — which in Martí's case were entirely favorable to the U.S. — which offend her and she wants Martí to disavow.

103. "[Martí] questions the reduction of humans to animals through this application of modern technology to childbirth [i.e. the introduction of an incubator in a Paris maternity hospital]."

Martí questions nothing of the sort. Lomas is implying that Martí objects to the use of incubators in hospitals to save babies' lives because that technology is also used to hatch chicks in the barn. On the contrary, Martí would be pleased at the decrease in infant mortality and would not object to the increase of chickens, either. This strange dichotomy which Lomas posits between technology used on humans and technology used on animals finds no parallel in Martí's writings. Nor does medical science, which conducts research on both humans and animals, make such a spurious (and, indeed, wacky) distinction. We can only suppose that Lomas has a personal animus toward animal experimentation which causes her to disallow any benefits to humans that might be obtained thereby, which animus she is trying to transpose on Martí even at the cost of making him seem ridiculous.

104. "Although Martí marvels at the fantastic magic of Edison's electrical light laboratory, he describes the rapid penetration of this technology throughout the world, like an 'electric fever that has spontaneously invaded all the countries of the civilized world (Obras, 28:181).'" Concludes Lomas: "The southward movement of 'northern technology' does not flow gently, or seek permission to enter. It invades, contaminates, and threatens to addict."

So now there is a "northern technology" and, presumably, a "southern technology" as incompatible as, say, AC and DC currents. To bring "northern technology" southward is to "invade, contaminate, and threaten" Latin America, which, nonetheless, Lomas suspects may become "addicted" to this alleged imposition, and, consequently, spurn the tallow candle, the kerosene lamp and other "southern technologies." Institutionalized backwardness (such as can be observed in Communist Cuba today) may be Lomas' highest aspiration for Latin Americans, but it was never Martí's. For Martí, there are no mutually exclusive "northern" and "southern" technologies, just as there is no distinction between technology used on humans and technology used on animals.

104. "The fantastic, imaginative elements of Poe and Baudelaire represent a limit to Edison's rational, modernizing genius."

Martí took the contrary position to the one assigned him by Lomas. He believed that poets anticipated all inventions.

105. "Modernist self-critique and this quality of dehiscence — the splitting apart of the sovereign subject along structural lines — distinguish Martí's modernism from a dominant model of North American individual genius."

Even though she defines "dehiscence" within the sentence, her meaning, if there is one, is elusive; in fact, her definition of "dehiscence" only adds to the confusion, besides being incredibly condescending and characteristically obtuse. Of course, she uses the word again. It haunts her perhaps because of her own inability to take her subject apart along natural lines.

107. "Martí suggests that consumer culture and party sectarianism had circumscribed political discussion to the extent that the voting process barely engaged with issues beyond the frame of two-party conflict."

So should the voting process and the two-party system be abolished in favor of one-party "elections," as in Communist Cuba? Do consumerism and sectarianism circumscribe political discussion more than does a one-party dictatorship that persecutes all dissent? This is the Castro regime's position. It is Lomas' position. It is not Martí's position.

107. "[T]he Latino migrant [i.e. Martí] senses his illegitimacy or invisibility as compared to well-established, admirable, or notorious U.S. contemporaries."

Throughout her book, Lomas seeks to burden Martí with an inferiority complex with which he was never burdened. Her effrontery in presuming to know what Martí "senses"and not just what he says or what he does leaves no doubt that she herself is not suffering from an inferiority complex.

111. "Martí is disturbed by Bancroft's serenity and prodigious writing because as a soldier Bancroft had used his intellectual talents to dispossess Mexico of California during the United States-Mexico War."

Historian George Bancroft was never a "soldier." He was Polk's Secretary of the Navy.

111. "While serving as the acting secretary of war under President Polk, Bancroft ordered the seizure of California posts upon the declaration of war on Mexico, and gave the order to General Zachary Taylor to invade Mexico."

Bancroft was never "acting secretary of war," nor would he have had in that position (or the one he actually held, secretary of the navy) the authority under the Constitution to order the invasion of Mexico.

111. "Scarcely dissimulated envy and frustration also informed Martí's depiction of the celebrated, multilingual William Cullen Bryant... Unlike Bryant[,] Martí seemed at risk of never figuring in his country's still half-formed literary tradition."

More of Martí's alleged inferiority complex, which we now learn was triggered by "scarcely dissimulated envy and frustration." This is indeed an original discovery of Lomas', as is the inherent revelation that "the sincere man" was not sincere with himself or others. Moreover, Martí, according to Lomas, had no confidence in himself or in his abilities and "felt overwhelmed" (of course, she also knows what Martí "feels") by "unrealized projects and goals." Specifically, Marti feared that he would never "figure in his country's still half-formed literary tradition." What "Martí" is this? Certainly not the Martí who wrote: "My poetry will grow, and I too will grow under the grass." That Martí, the historical Martí, realized his goals and projects. Envy, dissimulation, self-doubt and frustration with himself were not motifs of his life or work, and are not present in his writings. To judge him through such a prism not only distorts Martí but reality itself.

As for Cuba's "half-formed literary tradition," isn't every country's literature "half-formed," that is, constantly evolving, gaining mass and even losing mass? Wasn't the U.S. literary tradition, in the time of William Cullen Bryant, also just "half-formed?" Surely "Thanatopsis" was not its capstone?

112. "Like a slightly deranged, modern Quixote..."

Well, at least Martí is only "slightly deranged."

115. "This insistence on margins prefigures revolutionary Cuba's position on the margins of imperial modernity and in the world's crossroads."

You will never guess that Lomas is extrapolating here on Martí's preference for wide margins in books.

118. Words put into Martí's mouth that are not Martí's: "Just as each American culture views the world differently, each produces its own government and leadership. No single 'origin' or model is applicable to all distinct American cultures."

Martí respected the validity of all cultures, but he did not respect the validity of all forms of government, as Lomas implies. Even if "no single ... model is applicable to all distinct American cultures," there is one model that is never applicable to any — dictatorial rule. This Martí always rejected in any and all circumstances. Yet it is this unacceptable model which Lomas advocates when she equates all models, and makes the culture of the volk, not the democratic process, the sole determining factor in choosing a country's government and leadership. Needless to say, the only American "government" which claims to represent the will of the people without ever having consulted it is the Castro regime. Its tyrannical model Lomas considers as legitimate as any other, and what is worse, she implies that Martí would also.

118. More words put into Martí's mouth that he never said: "The United States, which misrepresents itself and its government as native, autochthonous, and original, when in fact it violently 'takes' previously occupied land or ideas."

Is there any land or are there any ideas which have not been "previously occupied?" Whether "native" or not, "autochthonous" or not, "original" or not, does the U.S. "misrepresent" itself as the first democratic republic of modern times? Certainly, Martí did not share Lomas' view of its supposed illegitimacy.

119. "Martí's best-known prologue, to Juan Antonio Pérez's El Poema de Niágara (1882)."

Martí's best-known prologue is the one he wrote for his own Versos sencillos (1891).

120. "...Each story [in Castro-Palominos's Cuentos] reproduces debates concerning the problems of the inequitable distribution of wealth and the effects of panoptic or secret state-sponsored surveillance, where citizens spy on each other at the behest of their government."

Lomas' "colleagues" at the Centro de Estudios Martianos, who proofread and otherwise assisted in the preparation of her book, must have chuckled uncomfortably when they came to this sentence. Only Lomas could have written it without self-consciousness. No CEM "colleague would have dared, for obvious reasons.

128. "Popular education creates a national culture that refuses to abide enslavement of some citizens by others."

Except where "popular education" means indoctrination. Such as in Communist Cuba.

129. "Martí aligns his modernist form with an ethical commitment to redistribution of wealth and culture."

Nowhere in Martí's writings does he advocate the "redistribution of wealth" which is quite another thing than the "redistribution of culture." Culture may be redistributed without impoverishing those who already possess it. Wealth, on the other hand, is always "redistributed" at somebody's expense. When "redistributed" by Communists wealth does not benefit the poor but is transferred to a new oligarchy. That wealth never circulates, never creates jobs, and is never taxed, let alone acknowledged. It benefits no one but those who accumulate it by theft and hold it through violence.

131. "[S]tudies of Martí and Emerson draw on celebratory cold-war interpretations of Emerson to establish some of the qualities to which Martí may in have have been initially attracted [...] including the fantasy of exclusively male, metaphysical regeneration."

Neither Martí nor Emerson posited "an exclusively male, metaphysical regeneration." But it is not surprising that the only common ground Lomas could find for them, after having dispensed with so-called "cold war interpretations," is a mutually-shared misogyny.

132. "To read Martí as extending Emerson's legacy grafts Latin American letters onto a 'universal' or 'classical' North American, Emersonian trunk. Let's look at a sentence from [Martí's essay on] Emerson and see how Martí paraphrases or loosely translates it, without citing the original. Leaving aside the question of plagiarism, we can see how Martí's version sifts through and reworks the original."

When Martí paraphrases Emerson a bit too "loosely" (that is, after all, what a paraphrase is, a loose translation), Lomas analyzes the differences between the original and the paraphrase "leaving aside the question of plagiarism." That's big of her. Her point is that Emerson did not influence Martí's thinking as much as everybody else believes. And she makes her point by suggesting what nobody else ever suggested: that Martí plagiarized Emerson, which is surely the closest kind of influence that one author exerts over another.

159. "Notwithstanding Emerson's public opposition to the extension of slavery into new territory and to the invasion of Mexico, his thought fails to raise an effective obstacle to the notion of an Anglo-Saxon manifest destiny."

It wasn't enough to oppose slavery (not just its extension) and the invasion of Mexico; Emerson, according to Lomas, also had to "raise an effective obstacle to an Anglo-Saxon manifest destiny." She does not say how he could have done that, which does not stop her from faulting him for failing to do so. For Martí, however, Emerson's opposition to slavery and the Mexican-American War sufficed to prove that he was not a racist or jingoist. Lomas does not quote Emerson on the subject of manifest destiny, not because he does not address the subject, but because she could find no quote to suit her purposes. Here's one that decidedly does not: "America should affirm and establish that in no instance should the guns go in advance of the perfect right. You shall not make coups d'état, and afterwards explain and pay, but shall proceed like William Penn, or whatever other Christian or humane person who treats with the Indian or foreigner on principles of honest trade and mutual advantage. Let us wait a thousand years for the Sandwich Islands before we seize them by violence." Let the reader substitute "Cuba" for "Sandwich Islands."

173. "Martí's divergence from what I shall call a "United Statesian" way of seeing things belongs to a process whereby Martí accepts that as part of his creative chiseling of another America..."

The "other America" existed long before Martí "chiseled it." Is Martí's "other America," as defined by Lomas, just an antithetical "way of seeing things," a weather vane that always points away from whatever the U.S. position may be? Is that Martí's contribution to "Our America?" If it were he would be the most influential figure in Latin America history — and the most noxious. He is not. Martí's lesson to the "Our America" was to look to its interests, whether they coincide or not with those of the United States: to define itself on its own terms, and not in imitation of, or in opposition to, any other people.

"United Statesian" is an attempt to translate estadounidense, which is so unsatisfactory that even Lomas puts it in quotation marks. She will be surprised to learn that she did not coin this monstrous adjective. I found it first used in Harry Franck's Roaming Through the West Indies (1920): "If our Southern neighbors have their way I suppose we shall soon be calling ourselves "Unitedstatians." or as a fellow-countryman who has lived so long among them as to admit their contention [i.e. that they are "Americans" too] always writes it, 'Usians.'"

179. "In all likelihood, Martí could not have afforded the price of the ticket [to attend Whitman's Lincoln lecture] that William Dean Howells was collecting at the door of the Madison Square Theatre, which netted Whitman some $600 in one night (over half the proceeds came from Andrew Carnegie)"

Lomas is convinced that the "migrant Martí" was a pauper and could not afford the price of admittance to the Whitman lecture, which was all of $1. He could not afford it as well as Andrew Carnegie, but he could afford it. As a foreign correspondent to several newspapers and the consul in New York of three South American republics, his income at the time was not less than $3000 a year, which put him solidly in the middle class. Still, I do not believe he was in attendance at the Whitman lecture. There is more evidence that he attended a lecture given by James Russell Lowell.

179. "In describing Whitman's over-the-top performance, Martí positions himself as a silent dissenter in a crowd of acolytes.

More mind-reading on Lomas' part. Martí's Whitman essay, really an epic poem honoring the poet, does not support her contention that Martí was a "dissenter in a crowd of acolytes."

206. "Martí followed several Afro-Cuban leaders, including Juan Gualberto Gómez, Rafael Sierra, and Antonio Maceo, in making emancipation and Afro-Cuban and national liberation inextricable."

From the start of Cuba's struggle for independence national liberation and Afro-Cuban emancipation were indeed inextricable. The first act of the Ten Years' War (1868-1878), led by Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, was to free Cuba's slaves, with Céspedes himself setting the example. The one concession which the rebels demanded and received from Spain at the conclusion of that war was recognition of the manumission of all slaves that had fought for Cuba's independence. By 1892, when Martí founded the Cuban Revolutionary Party, all of Cuba's slaves had already been emancipated. Martí did not "follow" Maceo, Juan Gualberto Gómez or Rafael Sierra in advocating the "emancipation" of the emancipated. The national liberation of all Cubans — regardless of color — was the objective of Martí's Revolution.

211. "Rodríguez Otero's Martí seems to have a penchant for saying or representing the direct opposite of what [Martí] in fact means."

Something that "Rodríguez Otero's Martí" has in common with Lomas' Martí.

211. "This appropriation of Martí's voice belongs to a long tradition of attempting to attribute to the influential Cuban migrant leader views diametrically opposed to his own."

She is herself the latest adherent to this long and contemptible tradition.

213. "Martí in his war diaries defines an authoritarian society as 'one based on the concept, feigned or sincere, of human inequality, in which persons to whom all rights are denied are forced to carry out social duties to serve the power and pleasure of those who deny them those rights.'"

Can there be a better definition or more prescient foreboding of the Castro dictatorship than this? Of course, Lomas does not use it to condemn Castro, but the United States.

213. "Such [an authoritarian] society functions by convincing its members of the divine, natural, or scientific fact of inequality.

Or, we may add, in the case of the Castro regime and all Communist societies, by claiming that inequality is equality.

220. "While it is not irrelevant that Martí personally knew the experience of having a small stature..."

What? This is "not irrelevant? Then what is it? Is Lomas suggesting that the Cuban suffered from a Napoleonic complex in addition to his oft-attributed (by her) "inferiority complex?" (Napoleon and Martí, coincidentally, were the same height — 5'6". There are, of course, no coincidences for Lomas that are not redolent with meaning). No, it is much worse. According to Lomas, Martí's "small stature" explains why he sided with "the small David" against "the giant Goliath."

226. "Complicating the 'hurtful stereotype of the islander as a brainwashed cog for a Marxist state and the immigrant as a soulless worm lacking any concern for social justice,' Ruth Behar's anthology of contemporary Cuban writing on and off the island (Bridges to Cuba) adopts the metaphor of a body-bridge that hears the weight of Cuba's history of anguished separations."

Hurtful as it may be (and the fact that it is hurtful does not make it any less true), the Cuban people have been victimized for 53 years by a dictatorship whose highest aspiration has been to turn them into "brainwashed cogs of a Marxist state." Denied access to an independent media and now the internet, and with no civic or human rights that the state can be compelled to respect, if Cuban workers have found ways to elude the "stereotype" and are not "brainwashed cogs," it is no thanks to their oppressors or their oppressors' apologists (and, yes, that includes both Lomas and Behar). As for Cuban exiles, "the soulless worms[s] lacking any concern for social justice," it is their cash remittances ("taxed" at a rate of 20% by Castro) which feed the people and sustain, unintentionally but unavoidably, the Marxist state. If there is a "body-bridge" between islanders and exiles (other than the corpses strewn along the Florida Straits), the Brothers Castro have erected a wall in the middle and a toll-booth.

227. "[I]n the final years of preparing the revolution of 1895, while subject to surveillance by the Pinkerton Agency (which had confiscated the Cubans' three shipments of weapons), Martí nearly fell apart: 'he sometimes looked a crazy victim of delirious feelings of persecution, which led him to see spies and detectives everywhere.'"

The Pinkerton Agency did not "confiscate the Cubans' three shiploads of weapons:" the U.S. government did. Pinkerton agents, under contract to the Spanish Consulate in New York, did trail Martí's movements since his arrival in New York in 1880. At one time, several of them lodged in the boarding house where Martí lived. "Delirious feelings of persecution" did not cause him to "see spies and detectives everywhere." He saw "spies and detectives everywhere" because they were in fact everywhere."

242. "[There was] an effort within the proindependence movement to discredit Martí by insinuating that his criticism of the movement's leadership reflected his own treacherous effeminacy." // "Only a few years earlier, his 'effeminate' (in some militant's eyes) interest in poetry and art, his work as a writer (rather than as a soldier), and his willingness to criticize the political movement to which he belonged became the subject of other party members' comments." // "Martí might easily have diverted attention away from attacks on his own person by performing an aggressive heterosexism."

Lomas conflates Martí's rupture with Gómez in 1884 with his epistolary "duel" with Collazo in 1891-1892. Neither Gómez nor Collazo, however, ever accused Martí of "treacherous effeminacy" on the basis of his "interest in poetry and art" (which Gómez and Collazo shared) or "his work as a writer" (which both also were). Given the long list of Cuban revolutionary leaders who were also poets and writers, it would have been ridiculous to assert that the profession of arms was incompatible with that of letters. [Note to my readers: I may publish some of Máximo Gómez's poetry in a future post. If Martí can be a major general, why can't Gómez be a major poet?]

As for Martí "performing an aggressive heterosexism" to counter the charge of "effeminacy," Martí was quite content to "let his life speak for him," filled as it was from beginning to end with acts of courage, abnegation and sacrifice, which define manhood better than does "aggressive heterosexism" except in minds like Lomas' that seem to be invested in some arcane conception of "machismo."

246. "The former ["Amistad Funesta"], which [Martí] published in book form with the title Lucía Jerez..."

Martí did not publish the serialized "Amistad Funesta" in book form with the title Lucía Jerez. That had been his intention, and he even wrote an "Introduction" for the new edition, but it was not published in book form until after his death in the Obras del Maestro edited by Quesada.

247. "This chronicle ["La Mujer Norteamericana"], in particular, conveys Martí's response to the unconventional modern woman of whom, for whom he [sic] and in whose name he wrote."

Lomas must mean "of whom, for whom and in whose name he wrote" in this period. But Martí never edited a ladies' magazine during this or any period. He certainly wrote of women and as much for women as for men. But he never "wrote in the name of women," as Lomas asserts. Nor would modern women necessarily choose him as their spokesman, for though Martí was an advocate of female education, he still preferred, as Lomas notes, "the enchanting dependence of our women" to "the disfiguring freedom of North American women."

248. "New scholarship has broken decades of silence about Martí's ambivalence on issues of gender and sexuality, including his repressive responses to queer sexuality."

The "decades of silence" indicate a lack of interest in these issues, not any willful concealment on the part of old scholarship which "new scholarship has broken." Martí was never "ambivalent on issues of gender and sexuality." He believed what he believed. It is critics, like Lomas, who are ambivalent about his positions, which do not fit into any feminist or "queer" construct. As for Martí's "repressive responses to queer sexuality," he did not set up concentration camps to teach gays "how to be men," as Castro did in Cuba. Nowhere in his writings does Martí advocate the "repression" of homosexuals.

263. "According to Horatio S. Rubens, the young lawyer who represented the jailed Cubans and became the nation's legal representative in the United States up until the Armistace of 1902..."

Rubens was chosen by Martí as legal counsel of the Partido Revolucionario Cubano, in which capacity he served from 1893 to 1899, when the PRC was officially disbanded by Estrada Palma, the objective of Cuban independence having been achieved. We do not know what Lomas means by the "Armistice of 1902." The notable event of 1902 was the establishment of the Republic of Cuba.

281. "[M]artí's indefatigable Venezuelan partner who provided the material basis for much of his eating and living in New York, Carmen Miyares."

Carmen Miyares y Peoli was born in Santiago de Cuba, on October 7, 1848. Her father was Puerto Rican and her mother a native of Havana. Her parents emigrated to Venezuela shortly after her birth but returned to Cuba when she was 12. She was a Cuban not only by birth but sentiment and the ideal helpmate for Martí because she shared his love of Cuba and commitment to its freedom. Carmen Miyares and her family provided Martí with the loving home that he always craved and found nowhere else, and by this fact alone contributed more to the realization of his apostolic mission than did anybody else. But Miyares did not "keep" Martí, as Lomas seems to be slyly implying. During his residence in New York, he was a paying boarder at Carmen Miyares' rooming house for nearly 15 years, during which time he worked continuously, first as a clerk in commercial firms and house translator for Appleton's, and then as a foreign correspondent for several Latin American newspapers and consul for three South American republics. He supported his wife and son in Cuba as well as his mother, and contributed also to the support of the Mantilla household.

283. "We have seen that Martí depicted the vulnerability of the Cuban migrant to cracker racism in Florida."

Is this any way for an enlightened Latina to refer to poor and underprivileged whites? And to use such a term in a book about Martí, or in any book, cannot be politically correct. Or is it?

283. "...Martí becomes a forerunner of this new America [with an Hispanic majority by 2050], and of twelve million undocumented immigrants, over half of whom have come from Mexico."

Martí as a "forerunner" (is a pun intended?) of illegal immigrants? There was nothing "illegal" about Martí's entry into the U.S., nor did he ever consider himself an "immigrant."

Intro. footnote 81. "Martí's classmate José Ignacio Rodríguez..."

José Ignacio Rodríguez, who was more than 20 years older than Martí, was not his classmate but his teacher at the Colegio San Pablo, established by Rafael M. de Mendive.

Intro. f. 83 "According to Ivan Schulman's research, [Martí] produced under the pseudonym "M. de S." some 300 articles in Charles Dana's The Sun between 1882 and 1895.

Carlos Ripoll and I disproved Schulman's identification of "M. de S." with Martí and his attribution of those 300 articles to him [see Cuban Studies 29 (University of Pittsburgh, 1999)]. The Critical Edition of Martí's Obras Completas, currently being published in Havana, included six other articles from The Sun that Ripoll and me attributed to Martí in Cuban Studies, but excluded the 300 odd "M. de S." articles misattributed to Martí 50 years ago by Ivan Schulman and Manuel Pedro González.

Intro. f. 89. "In a letter to Valdés Domínguez, Martí sends his friend an article Martí published in New York concerning the Spanish government's apology for having killed by firing squad eight innocent Cuban medical students in 1871."

V, f. 93"Martí's 'Blood of Innocents" (New York Herald, April 9, 1887), which announces the Spanish apology and vindication of the innocence of eight Cuban medical students who were charged with defiling the grave of the loyalist Spanish newspaper editor Gonzalo Casteñon..."

The article reports no such apology, nor was any apology ever made by the Spanish government.

Intro. f. 98 "While I hope my readings contribute to desacralizing of the Martisian text, I also realize that any interpretation I make of Martí here in the United States must respond forthrightly to its nearly two centuries of struggle for control of the island's destiny."

That sentence alone shows that Lomas can contribute nothing but hubris to Martí studies. If she is afraid that her interpretations of Martí will be colored by her physical presence in the United States, then she can formulate them in Castro's Cuba, which surely is the perfect place to write about Martí and the negation of his ideas. In the more immediate "struggle for control of the island's destiny" between the Castro dynasty and the Cuban people, her sympathies are not with the oppressed and her pen is at the service of the oppressors. Not very "Martisian" of her.

I, f. 70 Juan Gualberto Gómez, the Paris-born Afro-Cuban carriage-maker who conspired on the island in coordination with Martí...

Juan Gualberto Gómez was not born in Paris, but at Sabanilla del Comendador, Matanzas Province, on July 12, 1854. His parents, both slaves, purchased his freedom before his birth and then theirs, and managed with the aid of a former mistress to send him to study in Paris at age 15. Called the "black Martí" by Carlos Ripoll, Gómez was not a carriage maker when he was chosen by Martí to organize the revolutionary uprising in Cuba but a well-known and respected journalist (a profession he had exercised for nearly 30 years). No Marxist revolution was ever as proletarian as Martí's. No need to gild the lily.

III, f. 70 "...Martí only rarely writes in English and rarely writes in creolized patois..."

Far more commonly in English than in "creolized patois," because in "creolized patois" not at all. Does Lomas believe that there is a native "Cuban patois" distinct from Spanish (as Haiti's patois is distinct from French)? It sure seems that way.


I have alluded already to the silent reception of Lomas' book among Martí specialists, which allowed those who are not experts but conscious of Martí's importance, if unacquainted with his life and works, to accord Translating Empire the distinction which the first scholarly work on Martí in English deserved if Lomas' book had indeed been that work, which it was not. There are studies which preceded it that have not received the hype but better deserved the accolades. To a large extent it was simply a matter of timing. Never has Martí enjoyed a greater vogue among U.S. academics, at least as a name, than he does now. He is honored because of his reputation, but his reputation has made the study of his life and works unnecessary at least for those (a majority) who prefer to honor the bust rather than the man. This uninformed (and therefore unarmed) hagiography, more than anything, threatens Martí's legacy and exposes him to the undigested readings of a Lomas, who after all is only following in the steps of her "colleagues" at the Centro de Estudios Martianos. The current situation will persist until Cuba is free and Martí released from his forced indenture to a foreign ideology. And then Cubans — and, yes, even dissidents from the CEM — will repudiate the defective and tendentious scholarship of Laura Lomas' Translating Empire.

Click here for Part 1 of this Review.

Click here for Part 2.