Home > Miguel Iturria Savón > Marti, Spirituality and Political Manipulation

Marti, Spirituality and Political Manipulation

Last May 19, evoking the fall in combat of Jose Marti Perez, the country’s academic, cultural and political authorities again exalted Cuba’s National Hero. There were events in the schools, official speeches, flowers on his grave, articles in the press, radio and television programs, and a evening in the Marti Studies Center, where the erudite of the regime presented three tomes of his Complete Works, still in the process of being edited.

A month earlier the Cinemateca de Cuba opened Jose Marti, the Eye of the Canary, a production of Fernando Perez — it’s still showing — which recreates fragments of the spiritual journey of our mythic hero, who lived on the island for only 16 years but who made it the center of his later work, marked by the breadth of his writing and his passion for freedom.

José Martí, like Simón Bolívar, is all things to all people. The political appropriation of the human and cultural legacy of the Apostle has become a rallying point for those who use his ideology to legitimize proposals or disguise their interests. The originality of Marti’s prose and verse ethical formulations have been overstated with regards to the role he played in the War of Independence of 1895.

As Marti spent just a month on the battlefield, his personal tribute is not comparable to the paladins such as Céspedes, Agramonte, Gómez or Maceo, but the difference was that he was a leader in the project of a nation, who united men of different opinions and generations. His diplomatic skills, his gifts as an orator and journalist, and his pilgrimage to Spain, Mexico, Guatemala, Venezuela, the Caribbean and the United States, where he lived two decades, gave him advantages over other independence leaders, who joined the Cuban Revolutionary Party, created by him in 1892 to prepare, initiate and lead the last war against colonial domination.

In the Cuban context of the early 20th century, the gradual discovery of Marti’s thoughts was a revelation that inspired his contemporaries and the generations who directed the destiny of the island, which spread his tenets, so broad and ambiguous that the serve equally well for democrats and tyrants.

The ethical and humane legacy of Jose Marti should be preserved like a cultural treasure, but the political banalization of his work slows the development of social thought and limits the perceptions of our basic problems. The Cuba dreamed of by the Apostle from exile has changed a great deal since then. Some of his principles remain valid, while others serve the regime that kidnaps his ideas and legitimates their permanence in power.

While modernity and a liberal sense of Marti’s ideas influence the Cuban multitudes, it is dangerous to contextualize what the Master expressed more than a century ago, particularly when it is used to take a stand against ideas that would refresh the national dynamic. And the extent to which we only read Marti, is out of balance. It is useless to reissue his works but his works weigh down the shelves in libraries and bookstores. Are we tired of so many high-sounding and instructive phrases? Will there come a time to take a break from the thoughts of the National Hero?

The Marti Program Office, created and directed by Armando Hart over a decade ago, is the height of Marti’s political support for the benefit of the dictatorship, whose researchers denigrate the Apostle to conceal his best ideas and present the leader of independence as an intellectual supporter of totalitarianism. They question the “research inputs” of authors such as Cintio Vitier, Roberto Fernández Retamar, Toledo Sande or Enrique Ubieta, who skirted the tributary of the tempestuous ideology of the Master, for whom, “The fatherland belongs to all… and is not the fiefdom nor chaplaincy of anyone.”

Decades of oppression and lack of freedoms contradict the maxims of Jose Marti, a friend or respect and open thinking and critic of the masks of justices worn by tyrants and their minions, whom he savagely attacked, conscious that “Force is always the courtesan of men of ideas…”

The arsenal of ideas left by Marti integrates the spiritual heritage of Cuba, but the political manipulation of his thinking burdens his work. He warned of the dangers of the socialist idea, permeated by “foreign-sounding readings” and by “the arrogance and hidden rage of the ambitious, frantic defenders of the helpless,” capable of turning the town into a battlefield and creating reforms that “are abridged in apostles and petrified in crimes…”  What certain truth?

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