Marti was an important prelude to Cuba’s ongoing tenacity to define its liberation according to revolutionary values, as opposed to colonial and imperial impositions.
On January 28, Cubans celebrated the 169th anniversary of Jose Marti’s birth – the Cuban poet and revolutionary upon whose values the Cuban revolution led by Fidel Castro was founded. In the aftermath of the attack on the Moncada Barracks in 1953 when being interrogated by dictator Fulgencio Batista’s officers, Fidel described Marti as “the intellectual author of this revolution.” In 2010, Fidel had declared, “I can only bear witness to the way in which the heroic city [of Santiago de Cuba] fell in the hands of the Rebel Army on January 1st, 1959. Then, Marti’s ideas triumphed in our country!”
Marti’s legacy prevails in Cuba. Fidel’s remembrance is of immense value, given that the Cuban revolution’s premise for mobilisation against colonial and imperial interests derives from recognition the anti-colonial struggle in Cuba started prior to the emergence of the July 26 Movement. Like Marti, the Cuban revolution also recognised the importance of regional liberation, as it refused to limit its struggle to Cuba but instead expanded according to necessity and political will. The Cuban revolutionary consciousness, therefore, is an ongoing process as Marti had indicated in his writings – political independence from Spanish colonial rule and later, US interests in Cuba – would require an entire alternation in the island’s socio-political structure.
When Fidel was imprisoned and awaiting trial for the Moncada barracks attack, the authorities prevented him from accessing any of Marti’s literature, along with other books which could have helped to prepare his defense. In his “History Will Absolve Me” speech, Fidel quoted Marti: “A true man does not seek the path where advantage lies, but rather the path where duty lies, and this is the only practical man, whose dream of today will be the law of tomorrow, because he who has looked back on the essential course of history and has seen flaming and bleeding peoples seethe in the cauldron of the ages knows that, without a single exception, the future lies on the side of duty.”
Marti’s name and legacy, however, is also exploited by the Cuban exiles in Miami and by the US government – both of which have tried unsuccessfully to thwart the process of the Cuban revolution through terror attacks, assassination attempts and sabotage. The portrayal of Marti, therefore, differs among Cubans depending on their political commitments.
For the Cuban exiles who deserted Cuba after the revolution, Marti is a historical figure and his example is not tied to the ongoing revolution started by Fidel. The dissociation between history and the present has been necessary for the Cuban exiles to manipulate Marti’s legacy based upon the community’s counter-revolutionary actions, backed by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Marti is depicted as a historical figure with no current relevance, rather than a revolutionary who started an ongoing legacy. Not to mention the US government’s attempts to exploit Marti in their threats towards socialist leaning governments in Latin America. That Marti would be equated with the imperialist ideologies he fought against is abominable, however it also reflects the symbolism which is revered on one hand, in Cuba, and exploited abroad, as in the case of the US and its interests which reflect a return to imperial hegemony in the region.
By contrast, Marti remained a constant reference for Fidel and the Cuban revolution. “History Will Absolve Me” reflects Marti’s influence as it is replete with the concept of the revolution as an ongoing process. Marti was an important prelude to Cuba’s ongoing tenacity to define its liberation according to revolutionary values, as opposed to colonial and imperial impositions. If Marti is to be appreciated, his legacy needs to be read within the context of a continuous awareness – one that is renewed within revolutionary consciousness and education.