October 10, a source of inspiration for José Martí

[…] From Céspedes the impetus, and from Agramonte the virtue. The one is like the volcano, which comes, tremendous and imperfect, from the bowels of the earth; and the other is like the blue space that crowns it. From Céspedes the rapture, and from Agramonte the purification. The one challenges with kingly authority; and with strength as of light, the other wins. He will come history, with his passions and justices; and when he has bitten and trimmed them to his liking, he will still remain in the beginning of the one and in the dignity of the other, a matter for the epic […] [i ]

The approach of each October 10 should become a favorable moment to review and rethink the national greatnesses. Reading Martí in such circumstances is an exercise that strengthens, engages and moves. His word revives the memory of the anniversary and makes the pride of being Cuban grow.

When Carlos Manuel de Céspedes gave freedom to his slaves in his La Demajagua sugar mill, thus starting the Ten Years' War, José Martí was just a teenager. However, from those dawn moments of his brief and intense life, he professed a deep devotion to the Father of the Nation and his followers, and more than once he felt ashamed for not being fighting in the bush. Throughout his extensive written work, there are frequent references to that fact. The earliest of them is his sonnet "October 10", written at the age of 16, in whose verses he overflows with patriotic enthusiasm, but also shows signs of precocious poetic talent. In his maturity, when several years had passed since the end of the conflict, already dedicated to independence work, he returned to the matter in his Simple Verses , this time to pay tribute to the fallen heroes, of whom he He considers himself an heir. The shocking poem XLV dates from that moment, which readers identify with his first verse: "I dream of marble cloisters [...]." [ii]

In his prose he repeatedly returns to this topic from diverse perspectives. His intention to write a history of the conflict dates back to his Guatemalan period, which did not bear fruit, and was subsequently a recurring motif in all of his work. Already settled in New York, it emerges in his "Reading at the meeting of Cuban emigrants in Steck Hall", on January 24, 1880. Only two years had passed since the end of the war, and the children and young people at the beginning of the strife were already men; In Martí's words is the decision to continue the emancipatory work started by the parents. He appeals to the pain of the people lacerated by ten years of conflict, the desire for freedom frustrated by increasing oppression, as a way to increase the spirit of rebellion: «There, in those fields, what tree has not been a gallows? What house doesn't cry for a dead person? What horse hasn't lost its rider? And they graze now, looking for new riders! » [iii]

Then, between 1887 and 1891, he would deliver a speech each year commemorating the national day. All of them stand out for the refined writing of the prose, the mastery of the art of oratory, the heartfelt tribute to the founders of our independence movement and the analysis of the causes of the failure of the conflict. Not only does it recognize the merit of previous generations, but it outlines the path to follow in the near future, since in these years it has already decided its destiny: to devote itself to the preparation of the war of independence of its country, and to work for the improvement her.

Being oratory pieces of extraordinary literary values, there is in them a political depth, a sagacity in historical analysis, an ethical coherence, which convince the audience with solid arguments, and at the same time touch the most sensitive fibers of the Cuban heart. It was necessary to appeal to the feelings of the suffering mass of emigrants for the supreme good of Cuba, which would not be possible without achieving absolute sovereignty over Spain, and Martí knew how to do it like no one else, because he also spoke from the feeling .

In the first of these texts, he will say:

The purest mysteries of the soul were fulfilled on that morning of Demajagua, when the rich, getting rid of their fortune, went out to fight, without hatred for anyone, for decorum, which is worth more than it: when the owners of men, at As the day dawned, they said to their slaves: “You are now free!” Don't you feel, as I am feeling, the sublime cold of that morning?… [iv]

A few lines later, he insists on the harshness of exile, preferable to the ignominy of living in one's own land under foreign despotism; but the joys of daily life, the enjoyment of family affections, the little things that fill the lives of men and women, are denied to the Cuban emigre, because the country weighs on his heart every minute:

The country persecutes us, with supplicating hands: its pain interrupts the work, cools the smile, prohibits the kiss of love, as if one did not have the right to it far from the country: a mortal sadness and a state of constant anger disturb the same sacred family relationships: not even children give all their aroma! Dazed, confused, helpless, those who live far from their homeland only have the strength necessary to serve it. [v]

When the twentieth anniversary of the start of the war is commemorated, he delivers a shorter speech, but full of heroic anecdotes, encouraged by "the holy memory of the war." [vi] In his words there is a vision that is both objective and legendary of those events, which he contemplates with admiration and gratitude, with the affection of a son and the responsibility of a citizen committed to continuing the work of his elders, avoiding their errors and matching his successes. He concludes these pages with a parallel between the emigrants and those wounded in the campaign, who endured the pain without a complaint, and from that suffering they extracted the necessary strength to overcome and continue standing defending independence. The closing is a call to prepare for the confrontation, ever closer, which is based on an optimistic vision of exile, so painful for everyone: "We are the brake of future despotism, and the only effective and true adversary of despotism." present […] We are spur, whip, reality, watchman, consolation. We unite what others divide. We don't die. "We are the reserves of the country!" [vii]

The grateful and loving memory of the heroes of the war, from the anonymous soldier, like Lieutenant Crespo, to the great leaders, like Céspedes , Agramonte , Antonio Maceo and many more, constitutes a rich vein of Martí 's role as a biographer. . And with this he sought, without a doubt, to praise through literature the extraordinary stature of these exemplary lives.

Martí would dedicate many pages to this matter. Among the most moving is his letter to the editor of The Evening Post, known as "Vindication of Cuba", published in the northern newspaper on March 25, 1889. In it he responds to the offenses made to Cuba and the Cubans in The Manufacturer , from Philadelphia a few days before, in which we are branded as an "inferior people", "lazy", "effeminate", "incapable of governing themselves." With this, a discredit campaign was launched aimed at preparing North American public opinion for future interference in the destiny of the Island. Martí dismantles each slander one by one, and uses the Cubans' capacity for work and resistance to do so. residents abroad, and above all of the heroism shown during the war:

Those young people from the city and small-bodied mestizos knew how to rise up in one day against a cruel government, pay their passage to the site of war with the proceeds of their watches and their pendants, live from their work while the country of the free in the interest of the enemies of freedom, obey like soldiers, sleep in the mud, eat roots, fight for ten years without pay, defeat the enemy with a tree branch, die […] a death that no one owes speak except with the head uncovered; […] These "effeminate" Cubans once had enough courage to carry Lincoln's mourning for a week, face to face with a despotic government. [viii]

As can be seen, October 10 and the Ten Years' War were a recurring presence in the Apostle 's work , not only as a memory, tribute and incentive in the preparation of the future war. They also constitute, even in the present, irrefutable arguments, of a cultural and political nature at the same time, against those who seek to harm the sovereignty of Cuba. Let us return, once again, to these vibrant, beautiful pages, full of rebellion and love. They strengthen, unite and console.




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