Friday, January 28, 2022

José Julián Martí Pérez at 169: The heirs of José Martí and those who repress them now

 "I think they kill my child every time they deprive a person of their right to think." - José Martí

José Martí with shirt of stars by Camila Ramírez Lobón

Today is the 169th anniversary of the birth of José Julián Martí Pérez, better known as José Martí, and hundreds of sons and daughters of Cuba are being subjected to political show trials for expressing themselves, peacefully assembling, and/or reporting on what happened during the protests in mid-July 2021. The lives of many of these unjustly and arbitrarily imprisoned Cubans hang in the balance.


Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara marks 10 days on hunger and thirst strike today.

On the evening of January 25, 2022 at the Freedom Tower in a vigil organized and hosted by Anamely Ramos González and Claudia Genlui of the San Isidro Movement for the freedom of Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, Yosvany Rosell García Caso, William Manuel Leyva, Cruz García Domínguez, and Chadrián Vila Sequín who are on hunger and thirst strike, and the rest of the political prisoners.

Vigil at Freedom Tower on January 25, 2022

One year ago on the eve of the 168th anniversary of José Martí's birth, approximately 20 artists, journalists and intellectuals gathered to read some of his works.  

January 27, 2021 marked the two month anniversary of hundreds of artists and intellectuals protest at the Ministry of Culture on November 27, 2020 for freedom of expression following the government raid on the San Isidro Movement's headquarters in Havana hours earlier. Out of that gathering, the Vice Minister of Culture agreed to meet with 32 representatives, and out of that encounter committed to an ongoing dialogue. On that night the 27N movement was formed.

Artists and intellectuals pay homage to Martí at the Ministry of Culture

José Martí was born on January 28, 1853 and in addition to being a journalist, poet, and independence leader he was also a fervent defender of freedom of expression and conscience.

Cubans of all ideological stripes claim him as their own, but objectively who has maintained the spirit of his words and ideas? There is a movement in Cuba and in Exile that seeks to restore human rights and liberties using nonviolent means. There are courageous men and women who risk everything standing up to dictatorship. Many have been jailed and some of them have been killed in the process and their families targeted for reprisals.

Some of the political prisoners featured in the vigil at the Freedom Tower

José Martí  wrote that "There is no forgiveness for acts of hatred. Daggers thrust in the name of liberty are thrust into liberty's heart."
He also criticized the writings of Karl Marx, observing they were antithetical to his own values. Marx in 1849 had written, "We are ruthless and ask no quarter from you. When our turn comes we shall not disguise our terrorism." 

It is not a surprise that Martí saw the dangers inherent in Socialism and its doctrine of envy observing: 

"Socialist ideology, like so many others, has two main dangers. One stems from confused and incomplete readings of foreign texts, and the other from the arrogance and hidden rage of those who, in order to climb up in the world, pretend to be frantic defenders of the helpless so as to have shoulders on which to stand." 

 Following these statements to his modern day counterpart over a century later leads one to Oswaldo Paya, addressing the European Parliament on December 17, 2002:

 "The first victory we can claim is that our hearts are free of hatred. Hence we say to those who persecute us and who try to dominate us: ‘You are my brother. I do not hate you, but you are not going to dominate me by fear. I do not wish to impose my truth, nor do I wish you to impose yours on me. We are going to seek the truth together.’"

It also leads to #27N and the San Isidro Movement, and the artists, journalists and intellectuals peacefully gathered in front of the Ministry of Culture to read the works of José Martí on January 27, 2021. They are his heirs.

One of them Carolina Barrero, an art historian, led the group in the reading of the poem "Dos Patrias" which translates to English to "Two Homelands," and posted the video on Facebook last year. She also distributed a printed image of José Martí wearing a shirt with stars on it.  This year, on the one year anniversary, she Tweeted the same video of herself reading the poem that is embedded above.

On January 27, 2021, Diario de Cuba reported on the preemptive arrests, an act of repudiation against the gathered artists and intellectuals, led by the Minister of Culture Alpidio Alonso and his Vice-Minister Fernando León Jacomino, who were caught on camera physically assaulting them. The dissidents were arrested and crammed into a small bus by secret police and beaten up while already detained. 

State Security accused Carolina Barrero of “Clandestine Printing”, a crime under Article 210 of the Castro regime's penal code, for distributing the above image and pursued a case against her.  

"They are afraid of nonviolent protests." - Camila Lobón (Periodico Cubano)

On March 21, 2021 Cuban artist Camila Ramírez Lobón identified herself as the author of the image and challenged regime officials: “The law that you want to apply against the beauty, in the full sense of the word, that Carolina embodies, you will have to use against me, too,” she wrote.

Other heirs, are to be found in Cuban diaspora, one of them is Patiño Vázquez, a self described "Cuban-American child of mambo and rock & roll." He created his own arrangement, a musical setting for this work of poetry.

Two Homelands

By José Martí

I've got two homelands: Cuba and the night.

Or are both the same? As soon as 

the sun withdraws its majesty, with long veils

and holding a carnation, silent,

Cuba, like a sad widow, appears in front of me

I know which bloody carnation trembles in her hand! 

My chest is empty, it is torn and empty where the heart used to be. 

It's time to start dying. The night is right to say good-bye. 

The light disturbs and the human word. 

The universe speaks better than (the) man.

Like a flag that invites you to battle, the red flame of the sail flatters. 

I open the windows, already tight inside of me. 

Muted, breaking the carnation's leaves, like a cloud that blurs the sky, 

Cuba, a widow, passes... 

In 2022 the heirs of Martí are subjected to political show trials, beatings, forced exile, and extrajudicial executions by the Castro dictatorship that systematically denies freedom of speech and assembly, but claims the poet as their own. 

Ideas expressed below by José Martí are in conflict with Castroism and cannot be reconciled. However they are in accord with the democratic Cuba that helped draft the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, and struggled for a more just and democratic order, but was first damaged by Fulgencio Batista on March 10, 1952 then systematically destroyed by Fidel and Raul Castro beginning on January 1, 1959. 

"Man loves liberty, even if he does not know that he loves it. He is driven by it and flees from where it does not exist."

"Freedoms, like privileges, prevail or are imperiled together You cannot harm or strive to achieve one without harming or furthering all."

"Liberty is the right of every man to be honest, to think and to speak without hypocrisy."

"It is the duty of man to raise up man. One is guilty of all abjection that one does not help to relieve. Only those who spread treachery, fire, and death out of hatred for the prosperity of others are undeserving of pity."  

These views exist today in Cuba, but not in the regime, but among dissidents, defying the communist dictatorship, who embrace freedom while rejecting hatred. Cuban scientist Oscar Casanella, who took part and was beaten up during the unauthorized 2019 Pride March, went on hunger strike in the San Isidro Movement's headquarter's in November 2020, took part in the January 27, 2021 protest outside the Ministry of Culture, and went into exile earlier this month, was present at the vigil on January 25, 2022.

"No+Dictatorship" sign at Freedom Tower vigil in Miami on 1/25/22

The Castro regime and its agents of influence attempt to disqualify those now in the diaspora, but forget that José Martí was a political prisoner, who was forcibly exiled from Cuba by the Spaniards for 24 years, and spent those years in exile advocating for Cuba's independence and Cubans freedom.

Below is a video by Omni Zona Franca of the vigil on January 25, 2022 with organizers and participants interviewed.

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