[As we await the publication of Fidel Castro's obituary in The New York Times, already written by Anthony De Palma, it is well to remember what The Times had to say on the occasion of José Martí's death in 1895. By way of contrast, we reproduce also Charles A. Dana's tribute in The New York Sun].
Published in The New-York Times, June 5, 1895
The news of the death of José Martí, the so-called president of the Cuban Republic, has caused a real sensation. Martí was the soul of the revolution. He had initiated and prepared it, in spite of the little aid that he could find in Cuba every time he had attempted to create a revolutionary movement. Naturally, his death gives hope that the war will soon be ended. Martí was not a fearful rebel, nor was he one of the exceptional men who may overturn a country by force of talent. A commonplace poet and writer, a prolix orator of diffuse style, he had written and talked so much that he had obtained a reputation among the Separatists. These, lacking a chief having any prestige at all, gave him their money.
It would be unjust to deny that he had remarkable tenacity, activity, and perseverance. Perhaps he was also a man of conviction, as his friends assure. But he must be severely judged. To put into turbulence a country which asked nothing more than peace and work, to expose it to a ferocious race, thinking always of revenge against the whites, to light the fires of civil war, pillage under the pretext of "Cuba libre," and put obstacles in the way of reforms which had been demanded for years, are not acts that claim indulgence.
However, there are men more guilty than he was, and more deserving of public censure. They were paid by him or they expected to gain something if he could be victorious. To sustain the revolution he had to recourse to all sorts of means; lies, false news, calumny. The end of Martí is the beginning of the end... The war will be hereafter conducted by negroes only, and bandits.
Editorial published in The New York Sun, May 23 1895
We learn with poignant sorrow of the death in battle of José Martí, the well known leader of Cuban revolutionists. We knew him long and well, and esteemed him profoundly. For a protracted period, beginning twenty odd years ago, he was employed as a contributor of The Sun, writing of subjects and questions of the fine arts. In these things his learning was solid and extensive, and his ideas and conclusions were original and brilliant. He was a man of genius, of imagination, of hope, and of courage, one of those descendants of the Spanish race whose American birth and instincts seemed to have added to the revolutionary tincture which all modern Spanish inherit. His heart was warm and affectionate, his opinions ardent and aspiring, and he died as such a man might wish to die, battling for liberty and democracy. Of such heroes there are not too many in the world, and his warlike grave testifies that, even in positive and material age, there are spirits that can give all for their principles without thinking of any selfish return for themselves.
Honor to the memory of José Martí, and peace to his manly and generous soul!