Sunday, February 15, 2015

"Martí in Tampa" by Cecil Charles

This is Cecil Charles' earliest known article on José Martí, whom she had met for the first time some months earlier. It is written from Tampa on the day of Martí's triumphal arrival there, which indicates that Cecil Charles may have arrived with him or was at least present to witness his apotheosis, though it is unlikely that she was there by happenstance. As in all future articles, she introduces Martí to her readers as a man of uncompromising principles who is ready at all times to sacrifice his own personal interests on behalf of his country's redemption. To illustrate this point, she uses the same example in all three articles: Martí's voluntary resignation of his lucrative consular posts in New York in order to devote himself entirely to the cause of Cuban independence. She describes his physical appearance in glowing terms, again alluding to his "pale, fine face," his "almond-eyedness, and "dreamy expression." She says in the article that she had personally interviewed Martí for it, and it is undoubtedly so. In no other contemporary account do we find such a wealth of detail on Martí's life, details that could only have come directly from his own lips. Others, too, may have heard him say similar things but only Charles paid to his words all the attention that was due them and faithfully recorded and preserved what she heard, letting us decide its import. We only wish she had been around him more, for no other friend of Martí's came closer to becoming his Boswell. For more than 100 years it was not known that Martí was elected as a delegate to a workingmen's congress in Mexico. Finally, Paul Estrade found a mention of Martí's early syndicalism in a socialist Mexican newspaper, which, of course, led to a spate of articles about Martí as "champion of the proletariat." Only someone profoundly ignorant of Martí's life would have supposed him to be something other than a champion of the rights of the oppressed. Charles also mentions another fact of which history has left no trace even in musty newspapers, that Martí was offered the position of personal secretary to a Mexican governor, which because of his "lack of worldliness" he had turned down much to his later regret. (Let's be grateful that he did turn down the "secretaryship" or otherwise he might have ended up as another Cuban ornament of the Mexican judiciary). Cecil Charles mentions also that Martí was president of the Spanish-American Literary Society, to which she herself belonged. On one recorded occasion,  Martí read to the assembled literati of New York works by such well-known Hispanic poets as "Magariños Cervantes, of Uruguay; Salvador Díaz Mirón, of Mexico; Julián del Casal, of Cuba; and Cecil Charles, of  Costa Rica," as reported in Enrique Trujillo's El Porvenir. Cecil Charles ends her revealing sketch of Martí's life and work with a highly characteristic quote, which summarizes both: "My life has two purposes; the second of them is the unification in spirit, and in accord with their nature, of the Spanish-American republics: to explain them, maintain them, and defend them without offence to the United States. I have faith in the United States, when she comes really to know our countries and people. I shall live and die for Cuba — to unite her scattered elements, in order that we may live in justice, peace, and liberty after the inevitable war."


Much Importance Attached to His Visit in Relation to the Cuban Question.

The New York Sun
November 26, 1891

Tampa. Nov. 25.— Señor Don José Martí, the noted Cuban orator, poet and leader, arrived this evening from New York, and was welcomed. by an immense crowd of Cubans and Americans, with a slight sprinkling of Spaniards as well. Señor Martí has come to Tampa upon tho invitation of the Ignacio Agramonte Club, whose guest he is. To-morrow night he will take prominent part in the grand political jubilee to be held in Ybor City. Although tired from his long journey he responded cordially to the warm greeting extended to him by his Tampa friends. The welcome took the form of an ovation of remarkable proportions, with bands of music and the wildest enthusiasm. Señor Martí will remain until Saturday. His visit is looked upon as highly significant in relation to the Cuban question.

When a man deliberately resigns a Government appointment with several thousands a year and honors in proportion, and smilingly lowers his forehead to the grindstone of meek and patient daily toil at the most prosaic of occupations, in order, as he says, "to preserve his independence," one naturally regards him as a singular sort of an individual. When Mr. José Martí, some weeks since, telegraphed his resignation of the Consulship General of the Argentine Republic in this city to the Minister of that country at Washington, it was not any complaint on the part of the Spanish Government had compelled the act but because he felt the necessity of relinquishing a post in filling which he considered himself trammelled in his labors for his country's independence.

Martí had not been guilty of violence in speech, as was at the time suggested by newspapers. This Cuban leader is a man incapable of violence in speech or act. Mild, magnanimous, and large hearted, Martí is a man of strange and varied experience. He is but 38 years of age, yet the first glance at his pale, fine face, the complexion strikingly white in contrast to the jet mustache and crisply curling hair, would cause one to believe him older. A noble forehead and a slight tendency to almond-eyedness give him a dreamy expression. He dresses in black and wears on his wedding finger a wide band of silver with a strain of iron through it. On the ring is quaintly carved the one word, "Cvba," by which it may be seen that the one great love of his heart is his country.

For a wonder I had an opportunity to converse uninterruptedly with Mr. Martí. As a rule his little office is crowded with callers from 1 until 4 o'clock. During these three hours all the thinking Cubans of the city seem to flock around him. and now and then a newly exiled General from Cuba makes his appearance. They fight the old battles over and plan new campaigns. Cuban independence will come, they believe. as surely as the sun will rise and shine. It will come before long very long. Fusion complete is what the agitators labor for. The enthusiastic demonstration in Tampa. in which not only the 2.000 Cubans of that city take part but the Americans as well, and even a few Spaniards, the first effort of the sort since the war of 1868, is in pursuance of these ideas of fusion and united strength.

Martí, who was born in 1853, was still too young at the time of that war to be condemned to death. But, youngster as he was, the Spanish Government found that his ready pen and silver speech were calculated to aid and encourage the revolutionaries. Martí. not l6, was editing a small newspaper, the Devil On Crutches. The Government could not send this tender youth, with the dreamy, almond eyes, out to be shot like a dog. but it could send him to the Political Penitentiary. Here, forced to go barefoot with chain and ball attached to his ankle.the boy was set to work in the quarry breaking stone. A tiny statuette was made of him appearing thus, and some of the Cubans in this city possess this interesting work of art. From 4 in the morning until sunset young Martí pounded away at his stone-breaking, and at the end of the first week his feet were torn so that he could hardly walk.

In that prison, says Mr. Martí, were political prisoners nearly 90 years old and negro children of 12; idiot slaves of 100 and white lads of 14. Later, when he had been sent to Spain, Martí published a pamphlet on these prison horrors, and asked that they be remedied. He described them and set the. Spaniards face to face with them, but in vain.

The young man then, became a student at the university ot Zaragoza, where he obtained the degrees of licentiate at law and bachelor of philosophy and of letters before he was 21. He started a school for poor and ignorant creatures in a humble suburb, and there dwelt, suffering constantly from illness contracted during imprisonment, but not subdued. His parents, self-exiled to Mexico, required his presence, and he went. There the young idealist found shelter and friends, but was not worldly-wise enough to accept a proffered secretaryship from one of the Governors. He was elected delegate to a workingman's congress, however, and there and then began his literary life in earnest.

Martí is known everywhere in Spanish America: more widely known perhaps than any other individual living. Not only is he known as an author, orator, and teacher but also as a friend to all the Spanish-American countries. From Mexico he went to Guatemala to accept the chair of philosophy and literature in the university. The war having ended in Cuba, he wandered back to his beautiful island home, but he was not long there when everything of a revolutionary tendency seemed to concentrate in his personality. This was quickly perceived, and the Government said: "He must go to Spain at once." However, they permitted him to wander about Madrid and he soon escaped. He came to New York to head the revolutionary Junta at about the time of Calixto Garcia's unsuccessful expedition. Garcia was unable to get the other important chiefs to ally themselves to him. and did not understand how to control the revolutionary elements. The forces were surrendered and the effort fell through. Martí arrived in time to explain the state of affairs and to save many persons from going to die when the sacrifice would have been useless.

After this Martí went to Venezuela. He would neither solicit nor accept any Government post from Guzman Blanco, but turned professor. He also founded the Venezuela Review. Then he came to New York, and here this remarkable man divides his time in hours of labor and hours of good works. Articles from his pen are eagerly sought by the Mexican and Central and South American journals. His mornings are devoted to literary work; his early evenings to classes in languages and literature. He is President of the Spanish-American Literary Society, and presides over its meetings on alternate Saturday evenings.

Every Tuesday evening, on leaving bis classes in Sixty-second street at 9:30, he makes his way down to a certain humble hall in Bleecker street, where is gathered a number of wonderfully intelligent young colored men intent upon educating themselves. Tired as he is, Mr. Martí is always happy to get to these honest and ardent young friends. They gather round him with faith and affection; they ask him all sorts of questions, historical, moral, sentimental, political, physiological, theological, metaphysical. He comes in with his pale, smiling face and his wonderfully magnetic presence, like an animate encyclopaedia, and he does not leave until nearly midnight.

"My life." says Mr. Martí, "has two purposes; the second of them is the unification in spirit, and in accord with their nature, of the Spanish-American republics: to explain them, maintain .them, and defend them without offence to the United States. I have faith in the United States, when she comes really to know our countries and people. I shall live and die for Cuba — to unite her scattered elements, in order that we may live in justice, peace, and liberty after the inevitable war."

Martí is a man of modest and almost ascetic life. The jubilee welcome extended him by the Tampa people was unsought by him, and undesired save as an expression of progress of the movement toward independence. The Cubans in New York are at work quietly and intelligently. Gens. Maceo. and Flor Crombet bide their time in Costa Rica. "No annexation, but independence," is the watchword. It is only natural to suppose that Martí will be chosen President of the new Island republic.


This article was graciously provided to us by Professor Jorge Camacho.

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