José Martí vs. the United States

The Cuban community in general is very ignorant about their national hero, José Martí. I’d like to share Martí’s own words regarding the United States:

Notebook #5, 1881:

In Cuba, the idea of annexation, which was born to accelerate the enjoyment of liberty, has changed in intention and motive, and today is no more than the desire to avoid Revolution. Why do they want to be annexed? Because of the greatness of this land [USA]. And why is this land great, if not for its Revolution? But in these times, we will not be able to enjoy the benefits of a Revolution without exposing ourselves to its dangers. But that is not rational: What you buy, you own. No one buys anything for another’s benefit. If they give it, it will be because they stand to profit by it.

Notebook #18, Undated. Estimated to have been written 1891-1894:

And Cuba must be free — of Spain and of the United States

Our America, 1891:

But our America may also face another danger, which comes not from within but from the differing origins, methods, and interests of the continent’s two factions. The hour if near when she will be approached by an enterprising and forceful nation that will demand intimate relations with her, though it does not know her and disdains her. And virile nations self-made by the rifle and the law love other virile nations, and love only them. The hour of unbridled passion and ambition from which North America may escape by the ascendency of the purest element in its blood — or into which its vengeful and sordid masses, its tradition of conquest, and the self-interest of a cunning leader could plunge it — is not yet so close, even to the most apprehensive eye, that there is no time for it to be confronted and averted by the manifestation of a discreet and unswerving pride, for its dignity as a republic, in the eyes of the watchful nations of the Universe, places upon North America a break that our America must not remove by puerile provocation, ostentatious arrogance, or patricidal discord. Therefore the urgent duty our America is to show herself as she is, one in soul and intent, rapidly overcoming the crushing weight of her past and stained only by the fertile blood she by hands that do battle against ruins and by veins that were punctured by our former masters. The disdain of the formidable neighbor who does not know her is our America’s greatest danger, and it is urgent — for the day of the visit is near.

El Partido Liberal, Mexico City, January 20, 1891

The Monetary Conference of the American Republics:

No man who knows and sees can honorable say — for it is a thing said only by those who do no see or know, or do not want, for their own personal benefit, to see or know — that the predominant element in the United States today is that of the more humane and virile, though nevertheless egotistical and conquering, rebellious colonist, the younger sons of noble families or Puritan members of the bourgeoisie. That segment of the population, which devoured the Negro race, promoted and lived from its enslavement, and subjugated or robbed the neighboring countries, has been tempered, not softened, by the continual grafting onto it of a European rabble, the tyrannical offspring of political and religious despotism whose only common quality is a cumulative appetite for exerting over others the authority that was once exerted over them. They believe in necessity, in barbaric right, as their only right: “This will be ours, because we need it.” They believe in the incontrovertible superiority of “the Anglo-Saxon race over the Latin race.” They believe in the inferiority of the Negro race, which they enslaved yesterday and torment today, and of the Indian, whom they are exterminating. They believe that the nations of Hispanoamerica are primarily made up of Indians and Negroes. As long as the United States knows no more about Hispanoamerica than this, and respects it no more than it does now … can the United States invite Hispanoamerica to a union that will be sincere and useful to Hispanoamerica? Is a political and economic union with the United States to the benefit of Hispanoamerica?

To say economic union is to say political union. The nation that buys, commands. The nation that sells, serves. Trade must be balanced if liberty if to be ensured. Only a nation that wishes to die will sell to a single nation, for the nation that wants to save itself sells to more than one. The excessive influence of one nation on the commerce of another is quickly transformed into political influence. Politics is the work of men, who surrender their sentiments to their self-interest, or sacrifice one part of their sentiments to their self-interest. When a strong nation feeds another, it makes the other serve it. When a strong nation wants to make war on another, it compels the nations are are dependent on it into alliances and service. The first thing a nation does to achieve dominance over another is to separate it from all other nations. The nation that wishes to be free must be free in its business dealings.

La Revista Ilustrada, New York, May 1891

Letter to Manuel Mercado, 1895:

Every day now I am in danger of giving my life for my country and my duty — since I understand it and have the spirit to carry it out — in order to prevent, by the timely independence of Cuba, the United States from extending its hold across the Antilles and falling with all the greater force on the lands of our America.

The nations such as your own and mine, which have the most vital interests in keeping Cuba from becoming, through an annexation accomplished by those imperialists and the Spaniards, the doorway — which must be blocked and which, with our blood, we are blocking — to the annexation of the peoples of our America by the turbulent and brutal North that holds them in contempt,

I lived in the monster [the U.S.], and I know its entrails.

Camp at Dos Rios, May 18, 1895

Martí died in battle the very next day.

Thanks for reading,


Allen, Esther, José Martí: Selected Writings, Penguin Books, 2002

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