Front Door to Cuba

Martí's Letter to Antonio Maceo

Puntarenas, June 18, 1894

Sir and friend:

General Antonio Maceo


You have not come, as your telegram to José announced, and I have been entertaining my great impatience here with the hope of embracing you again before putting to sea. But it was not to be.


The steamer is finally arriving and will leave immediately, and perhaps you are on your way; but I am writing to you, for the letter will find you eventually.

I do not have to tell you about my uneasiness here. Five useless days have passed since I have seen the messengers from the colony, or Flor, all of whom I left without a single doubt or hurt. Afterward, I could scarcely talk or write from disappointment. I regained the lost time. If there is no immediate way of going to Mexico, I will go north again and from there do what I was going to do, while attending to other things. Our plans in their essentials must not change; in the important matters they depend solely upon what we find done upon my return.

Shall I talk to you about the long and satisfactory conversation I had with Jose concerning everything of general interest it was right to tell him, although without any details in local matters-details I have already told him are entirely in your hands? I relieved him of all worry that he might consider himself scorned, and explained to him our concentration of responsibilities to the end that there be a greater likelihood of success. I think my conversation with him was factual and efficacious, having been about the past war and its stumbling blocks and mistakes and about this war and the new spirit with which we are setting out. Regarding that saint of a Juan Baracoa, all will be a question of his being able to leave his house somewhat secure. How to be included there without a man as sincere and skilled as this artless Juan, a strong and ingenuous son of the Cuban revolution and as handsome as the handsomest in it? León Castro accompanied them.

Flor leaves a very pleasant impression upon me. I had not written to him as I should have done, nor was it necessary, as the interview proved. You two will go hand in hand. Fortunately, you will have nothing to impede your progress. The beauty of these things is that we arrive at where we are without duplicity, concealment, or a single reservation. At the moment of truth the small merges into the great. I explained to Flor the general plan of what is to be done here, telling him that the total and absolute direction of what might have to be done here remained with you, and that I was carrying all the other responsibilities. He had many ideas about a port which I left for you to discuss and decide, and I told him I would leave with you a code about them in case you thought it well to accept some of the suggestions he made to me.

He told me that Tortuguero would be excellent for a port-from Tortuguero to Sabana Laguna. And I said that safe port facilities could be built right there in a month. You will see about this. Therefore I am changing absolutely nothing in my plans, and am going ahead with our whole idea. If you regard the port facilities favorably, they could be started immediately so there would be no danger of delay-and I still believe that if the project should prove unsafe, it must not be undertaken this month. If it does prove safe, it is up to you to say whether or not you consider it a good thing. It would be very economical. There would be another difficulty: the construction cost which must come from the North; and that detail, since it comes out of general expenses I have explained to you. Flor told me that he could obtain the same materials in Panama. In order to attend to everything, I will leave a key to the code in Panama so that in regard to the news they may give me about this according to their agreement about the code I include, I can cable Panama to send the news here. This seems complicated, however, and I flee from anything that has to pass though my hands. In case the matter of the construction should be accepted, you might suggest to me some way of sending the entire invoice to a friendly trustee.

What I believe to be very important is suggesting Tortuguero, either for its absolute security or because to my repeated questioning Flor replies that our forces could concentrate there-those form Mohín as ell as those from Nicoya, with no occasion for the least reconnoitering or alarm. This indeed demands much thought. I listened to all this, but left nothing absolutely accepted or arranged with Flor, whom I told to discuss all of it with you, and said I would write to you about his proposal, as I am doing. You will see. I shall continue doing, then, what I have planned, and if there is any change, here is the code. *

You can imagine how much affection in Puntarenas; they entertained us with exceptional attentions, anything but useless in these days on the road. Of Cubans and Colombians and Costa Ricans we carry away all kinds of pleasant memories: invitations, visits, services. We took part in the ceremonies for anew steamship, and I would have been very pleased to describe them to Pío Víquez, and all the kindness and culture I have found hereabouts, if it had not been for this great annoyance with the ship, which tried my hands. **How to write about one thing when suffering from another? We are now beginning our voyage with an intense sorrow-the death of Pardo and Perozo. This is truly a sad way to die; the other is better.Antonio Maceo photo

I must finish now. I am not changing my spirit, but enriching it with all I see that is grand and beautiful and makes me grateful.

Imagine how I could ever forget it-forget Maria who is to take her daily walk in the early morning, or forget Eduardo Pochet.

The ship is leaving. And Enrique Boix? And Loynas? Perhaps I will write to them as I intended. And from Panama I shall write you again. Love well your

José Martí

*The code was used by Marti and Maceo to communicate in writing, and involved substituting each letter for the one that came before it in the alphabet, and to read the result from right to left.

**This is a reference to the time and effort Marti devoted to the Fernandina Plan.

José Martí's Letters to Antonio Maceo:
July 20 1882 / June 18 1894 / June 22 1894 / January 19 1895
Martí on Maceo (from Patria |

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