The Myth of José Martí: Conflicting Nationalisms in Early Twentieth-Century Cuba

The Myth of José Martí: Conflicting Nationalisms in Early Twentieth-Century Cuba

The Myth of José Martí: Conflicting Nationalisms in Early Twentieth-Century Cuba

The Myth of José Martí: Conflicting Nationalisms in Early Twentieth-Century Cuba

Synopsis

Focusing on a period of history rocked by four armed movements, Lillian Guerra traces the origins of Cubans' struggles to determine the meaning of their identity and the character of the state, from Cuba's last war of independence in 1895 to the consolidation of U. S. neocolonial hegemony in 1921. Guerra argues that political violence and competing interpretations of the "social unity" proposed by Cuba's revolutionary patriot, Jos© Mart, reveal conflicting visions of the nation--visions that differ in their ideological radicalism and in how they cast Cuba's relationship with the United States.

As Guerra explains, some nationalists supported incorporating foreign investment and values, while others sought social change through the application of an authoritarian model of electoral politics; still others sought a democratic government with social and economic justice. But for all factions, the image of Mart became the principal means by which Cubans attacked, policed, and discredited one another to preserve their own vision over others'. Guerra's examination demonstrates how competing historical memories and battles for control of a weak state explain why polarity, rather than consensus on the idea of the "nation" and the character of the Cuban state, came to define Cuban politics throughout the twentieth century.

Excerpt

On February 24, 1905, citizens of the Cuban Republic gathered under a thick blanket of dense, gray clouds in Havana’s Central Park. They eagerly awaited the presentation of Cuba’s first marble statue of José Martí. the occasion also marked the tenth anniversary of the start of Cuba’s third and final war for independence from Spain. Together with General Máximo Gómez, the rebels’ commander in chief, José Martí had launched the war on that very day in 1895 when he issued the Grito de Baire, the official call to arms. Killed in his first military encounter with loyalist troops less than three months later, Martí had been one of the revolutionary movement’s key organizers and principal ideologues since the mid-1880s. Despite his intense activism and prolific writing on behalf of independence, Martí ‘s long fifteen-year exile in the United States and Spain’s censorship of his works had effectively limited knowledge of his work among Cubans on the island. Still, thanks in part to the return of Martí ‘s fellow emigrés to Cuba at the end of the war in 1898, Martí ‘s fame was growing. Although plans to erect a monument to Martí had been in the works since 1899, building of the monument had been stalled for years. a lack of funds was not the main problem; rather, it was the uncertainty of Cuba’s political destiny itself.

Instead of independence and political sovereignty, the end of the war in 1898 brought a four-year U.S. military occupation followed by a pro-U.S. republican administration. the latter proved deeply reluctant to implement any revolutionary reforms. Moreover, the U.S. Congress’s imposition of the Platt Amendment to the 1901 Cuban Constitution as a condition for military withdrawal effectively granted the United States the right to intervene whenever it deemed that Cuba’s domestic policies were endangering its interests. Regardless of what they thought of Martí ‘s contributions to the war or how differently they viewed the future that . . .

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