Those who speak of Martí today only know him through his writings and life's work, but have nevertheless made him part of their daily lives. We return to these intellectuals, political leaders, men and women, on the 165th anniversary of the Apostle’s birth, above all because the relevance of his thought is undeniable.
"Martí has left no loose ends in the history of Cuba," said Cintio Vitier, eminent Cuban intellectual who has studied Martí's work. In his vast legacy, to be found are the complex, varied issues that remain important today. Therein lies the greatness of his thought, his immortality.
Armando Hart Dávalos, who directed the Martí Program Office and served as president of the José Martí Cultural Society, said, "Martí did politics as an art, and it was definitely the art of unifying men for a given end. In essence, his originality consisted in getting beyond the reactionary maxim of divide and conquer, to the watchwords of unite to win."
Unity was a concept he always advocated and emphasized as indispensable to reaching independence. Adhering to this principle, when the War of 1895 broke out the Cuban Revolutionary Party was created; the Centenary Generation assaulted the Moncada; the Revolution triumphed; and not only our country, but the Latin American left, continues to forge ahead.
As a visionary, he defended a united America and the idea of "homeland is humanity." A thought that lives today in the solidarity and internationalism of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), in the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (Alba), and all revolutionary processes underway in the region, which have allowed us to live, in action, in an America that is more our own.
A HERO OF THE REVOLUTION
"Martí's thought is the cornerstone of the prophecy and triumph of the Cuban Revolution," wrote Eusebio Leal Spengler ten years ago, in the pages of this publication, adding, "If we are here today it is because Fidel, with his generosity and broad view, was aware that the Apostle embodied the intellectual acumen and ethical values of the Cuban culture and nation."
In his youth, Fidel came across Martí's writing and studied it, re-read it, and became convinced that it was, as he would say, his guide. In that era, Martí was a paradigm for his generation. The Revolution of the 30s, that condemned the neo-colonial system; the struggle for the Constitution of 1940; protests at the university; all of the period's uprisings, had the figure of Martí behind them.
Fidel made all of this his own, to move forward with actions that bore Marti's mark.
As the intellectual author of the Moncada assault, Martí guided this generation of young Cubans with his grand, timely thinking.
THE APOSTLE IS MY LIFE'S GUIDE
Fidel Castro was a man of Martí's ideas and patriotic sentiments. In one of his many statements regarding the legacy of José Martí, he said, "The audacity, the beauty, the value, and the morality of his thought helped me to become what I believe I am today: a revolutionary."
A revolutionary who went from young rebel to leader of a country, who made good use of Martí's ideas to do so, and promote among the people the necessity of making Martí's ideas a reality. More than 20 years ago, the Comandante en Jefe stated, "We can say to Martí that, today more than ever, we need his thinking; that today more than ever we need his ideas; that today more than ever we need his virtues."
Over almost 60 years of Revolution, José Martí has been, according to Eusebio Leal, "the saving grace," and thus "a legitimate cult has found a place in the souls of Cubans of a man who was not only of his time, but of all times; a man not only of Cuba, but of the entire world."
Cuban singer-songwriter and poet Silvio Rodríguez said, some years ago, that the essence of José Martí's personality was "above all, kindness, the Martí ethic, which gives meaning to life and this meaning is for the wellbeing of humankind. This
great generosity that Martí had - this desire that everyone be happy, this interest in and investigation of human sentiments."
His writings and actions offer evidence of a man committed to good, to humanity, to freedom, and peace. That is why, Armando Hart asserts, in a 2003 interview, Martí "felt the pain, the anguish, and the evil that permeates the world, but also the need to transform it, to enrich and beautify it."
Given this interest, apart from individuality, he was such a great man, Hart continued, saying, "He was blessed with great sensibility; he was an illustrious poet and man of letters, and was even able to organize a war. He was an exceptional man! And was, moreover, profoundly radical but never extremist. His radicalism was directed toward achieving justice and the full dignity of man.
"In Martí, kindness, intelligence, and happiness came together, and this is the new man to which Che referred," Hart concluded.
A new man, not yet a reality, who will evidently need to be a follower of Martí, as well.
As we reach his 165th anniversary, many continue to uphold Martí's example. His vision of the future continues to be needed today, and not only as a guide in the creation of a better country, but as a reference for future generations. Musicians like Israel Rojas, singer in the duo Buena Fe, have included him in their songs, insisting, "The truly grounded, marvelous, timeless Martí, must accompany us today more than ever."
Many treasure him. Silvio Rodríguez insists on making him eternal. In a 2012 interview published in the newspaper Juventud Rebelde, he affirmed, "Martí is such a huge, vast universe; he talked about so many things; his mind was in so many places, that I believe he is particularly necessary at this time. Martí is the point of support that underlies our cohesion as a nation."
He unifies the past… he spoke of the people who fought the War of 1868, putting them to the service of a present that was uncertain at that time, but he saw the importance of basing ourselves on these roots. And he moreover connected these roots to the future.
Toward this future we contemplate today, Martí will undoubtedly accompany us, as René González Sehwerert, one of the Cuban Five and now vice president of the José Martí Cultural Society, said, "Let us make of every Cuban a follower of Martí in his heart, and the Revolution will live forever."
José Martí is not only Cuba's national hero, but rather an element of Cuban nationality: No one is a patriot without being a partisan of Martí.