José Martí, the United States, and Race

By Anne Fountain | Go to book overview

1
Cuba’s Most Universal Man

The small museum on Calle Paula in Havana seems inauspicious, yet it is the birthplace of a man whose impact on history, politics, letters, the arts, academe, and popular culture continues to be felt more than a century and a half after his birth in 1853. A revolutionary who died in battle, a warrior with words, transnational in outreach and yet fiercely Cuban, Martí became his homeland’s national hero. He was a pivotal figure in the history of the Americas, initiated a literary movement in Spanish letters, introduced U.S. authors to Latin America, created a literary bridge with his newspaper chronicles, produced unforgettable children’s literature in Spanish, translated a popular American novel, and came to claim a defining role in United States–Cuban relations. Brought to a dramatic end by Spanish gunfire in 1895, Martí’s life today means many things to many people. The measure of his days goes far beyond a brief biographic sketch, yet introductory comments that provide a framework for this study are essential. Starting on Calle Paula provides a context linking past and present.

My first visit to the Casa Natal in the early 1990s—an especially bleak time in the Special Period—was marked by urgency. My time in Cuba was short, and the taxi driver who took me to the site was reluctant to wait. My only camera was a cheap Instamatic, and I had brought only a small booklet for notations. There were no chairs, and so all note-taking was done standing up. I started downstairs, where a modest display case held the shackle that the sixteen-year-old Martí had worn while in jail in Havana after he was arrested by Spanish authorities. Although that first visit was wearying—I stood for hours taking notes in a small notebook—it fascinated me and left lasting impressions. It also provided tangible connections with my subject. While the birthplace is not a biography and its displays are not

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José Martí, the United States, and Race
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Content vii
  • Figures ix
  • Preface xi
  • 1 - Cuba’s Most Universal Man 1
  • 2 - Martí and Race, an Overview 12
  • 3 - Black Cubans in the United States 34
  • 4 - African Americans and the Post–Civil War United States 48
  • 5 - Chronicles of the Crusaders 59
  • 6 - Native Americans and "Nuestra AMérica" 77
  • 7 - Immigrant Communities 96
  • 8- Challenging the Colossus - Responses to U.S. Racism 105
  • 9 - Conclusions 119
  • Notes 133
  • Bibliography 145
  • Index 155
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