I am reading a book that challenges and disturbs. I still haven’t finished it —because it makes you to stop in mid sentence, or half way through a paragraph or go back to some other page; meaning that you have to read it and reread it, you go forward and then you go back. It demands that one speak their mind, give their opinions, share ideas and make their own assessment. It is —my compañeros— a book that must be read. Enough said.
I’m referring to the “Vida y obra del Apóstol José Martí” (The Life and Works of Apostle Jose Marti) by Cintio Vitier. I won’t play the “critic,” even if I had the capacity to do so. I’m only sharing this material and explaining the impact that it has had on my concepts, on my vision of “the Founder.”
Without being a biography, it reveals qualities of Marti —although well known— which are drawn more deeply, more exactingly, and also more currently – up to this very moment.
No follower of Marti thinks that the Apostle can be updated, he constantly remains current. It is Marti who updates us. He reminds us with his thought that there exist things, facts and ideas that we must focus on, just as he focused on them so as not to lead us astray.
One of those things, one of those values about which he reflected, synthesized and even poeticized is that of the nation. It is necessary for us to think about the nation, to discuss the nation, and especially to discuss this within the nation, within the environment and ethics of the nation. “The homeland” —the maestro said, and as Cintio makes us recall— “is no one’s: and if it were someone’s, it would only be in spirit, of those who serve it with the utmost detachment and intelligence.”
Today’s times require debate. Few could ignore the fact —and in this case it would be culpable ignorance— that all that we have truly wanted to be and have, in keeping with the historical aspirations of the country, has deteriorated and faces the risks of being diminished – of even becoming lost.
It now seems to me that with Fidel Castro’s warning of November 2005 [that the Cuban Revolution could be reversed owing to missteps by the Cuban leadership and people themselves – T.N.] and Raul Castro’s speech this past July 26 [criticizing the country’s inefficiencies, bureaucracy and corruption – T.N.], that it is naive to have a phantasmagorical appreciation or to draw a veil of indifference over the real situation of the nation.
Nonetheless, the nation will save itself. In particular, it will side step the threat of losing its independence —that grand accomplishment that it will never surrender in exchange for a plate of beans. This will be accomplished through collective discussion and collective struggle, to discover the possibilities of “chang(ing) all that should be changed [quote from Fidel Castro – T.N.],” maintaining a sense of this historical moment much more attentively than in other moments.
Thinking of this, I have been reading Cintio’s book, or Cintio’s book has echoed these ideas in my mind. Perhaps our greatest essayist did not write his book with the aim of contributing to our discussions. Using a sharper blade, perhaps he wanted to penetrate the “mystery.”
I now find that one of the things that we need is to learn is how to debate. Who can claim debate as being their exclusive property? Who can assume that their truth is the truth, and therefore invalidate the truth of others – those who they don’t know or hardly know? Marti certainly teaches us to debate. He points to these ethics that we painfully perceive as now lacking among us, or among some of us. The ethics that are in place exist because they are in place, and we must respect them.
If Marti struggled to construct a nation for all and for the wellbeing of all – at least for all those who love it, exalt it, those who build it and reconstruct it as independent and just. They will have to have a sense of being a part of “those who love and build” to be able to think about our successes, errors, aspirations – about our history, our culture. If culture will make us free, and saving the culture will save the nation, then without the ethics of debate, culture is simply a noisy clarion, emitting the belch of vanity...
Well, this is what I was thinking about while I read the book by Cintio – whose science, whose sensibilities, whose ethics —along with those of his wife Fina Garcia Marruz— were able to project such a defiant image of the Apostle, an image that will show us how to see things as they are, and not how like we’d like to see them.