The Meaning of José Martí
I participated in a radio interview on Saturday, January 28, 2012, on the Silvio Canto, Jr. Program from Dallas, Texas. We discussed the meaning of José Martí to Cuban Americans – given the fact that we were commemorating the 159th anniversary of Martí’s birth on January 28th. You can listen to the interview by clicking here.
After the interview, the issue came up regarding one of Martí’s saying “"Nunca son más bellas las playas del destierro que cuando se les dice adiós." (“The beaches of the exile are never more beautiful that when you wave good-bye to them.”)
Considering that I emigrated to the United States from Cuba when I was 11 years old, I indicated that the saying had no relevance for me. The beaches in the United States continue to be beautiful to me – as I have no intentions of going back to live in Cuba even when it has a democratically elected government. Make no mistake about it. Cuba will have its Cuban spring soon.
I have a moral commitment to do everything within my power that is legal to tell the world about the repression and the lack of the most basic human rights at the hands of the current Cuban authorities. I have used my pen extensively to author multiple op-ed’s and letters to the editor that the major media outlets have published. I’ve done this to give a voice to the voiceless in Cuba, and to show respect for all the hardships that my parents’ generation endured at the hands of repressive Cuban officials – as well as to offer a helping hand to the valiant dissidents in Cuba who continue or have given their lives for simply demanding a Cuba Libre.
But I have spent almost my entire life in the United States. The United States is home to me. My son was born in this country. I love this country and would do anything to defend it against all enemies – foreign and domestic.
Moreover, the Cubans living in Cuba have very little in common with me. The differences by growing up in a Marxist environment compared to my upbringing in a capitalist and Judeo-Christian society cannot be easily bridged. For example, the differences in core values and work ethic would be insurmountable, and it would take multiple generations to change. Cuban-American Film Director Leon Ichaso has a scene in his latest movie “Paraiso” where a recently-arrived Cuban exile openly wonders at the Cuban-Americans that he sees at the Versailles Restaurant in Miami. He tells his father that he never saw Cubans like those at Versailles when he lived in Cuba. In fact, he implies that they are obsolete. So, you see, the perception is mutual that there is a disconnect between Cuban-Americans and Cuba’s “new man and new woman.” [To view the Paraiso trailer, click here].
I understand why Martí would think differently than I would. At 18, he graduated with a law degree from the University of Zaragoza. He travelled extensively to Mexico, Guatemala, and Venezuela. He moved to New York City when he was approximately 27 years old. With most of his family still living in Cuba, Martí always thought of going back. Considering that he spent most of his adult life in Spanish-speaking countries, he could never feel at ease in an Anglo-Saxon environment.
So, I will continue to enjoy drinking Cuba Libre’s with authentic Cuban Bacardi Rum in the United States, while Cubans continue drinking Mojitos with Havana Club Rum at La Bodeguita del Medio Restaurant in Old Havana.