Front Door to Cuba

Our Ideas

by José Martí, published in PATRIA, New York, March 14 1892

Jose Marti portrait

This journal comes into being because of the desire and with the resources of the Independent Cubans and Puerto Ricans of New York, to contribute, without pause or urgency, to the organizing of the free men of Cuba and Puerto Rico, in accord with the present-day needs and conditions of those islands and their future republican constitution. Its purpose is to maintain the intimate friendship which unites, and must unite, the various independent groups with one another, and also those good and useful men from all points of origin who persist in making sacrifices for our emancipation, or are sincerely beginning to work for it. The journal intends to explain and determine the country's real and vital forces and their sources of composition and decomposition, so that the recognition of our deficiencies and mistakes, and our dangers, will assure the task that could not be accomplished merely by the romantic and disorganized faith of our patriotism. Its function is to promote and proclaim virtue wherever it is found, and to unite and love and live in the passion for truth. It leaves at the door, because they deform the purest purpose, both the personal concern by which clouded judgment brings down to its own desires the sacred issues of justice and humanity, and the fanaticism which advises men to make a sacrifice whose feasibility and usefulness are unreasonable.

It is criminal for a man to promote a war that can be avoided, and to fail to promote an inevitable one. It is criminal for a man to see the arrival in this country of a conflict fomented by provocation and favored by despair, and not prepare the country, or help prepare it, for that conflict. And the crime is greater when one recognizes, through previous experience, that a disorganized preparation can make the most glorious patriotism go down in defeat, or sow in the victorious country the seeds of its definitive dissolution. He who withholds his aid in preparing the war today is helping the country disintegrate. The simple belief in the probability of war is indeed an obligation on the part of whoever considers it honorable and wise to contribute to the purification of the likely war, or to prevent its turning sour. The strong foresee; the second-class citizen for the storm with folded arms.

War, in a country which was embroiled in it for ten years and looks upon its heroes as loyal and active, is the unavoidable consequence of a continuous denial, open or concealed, of the conditions necessary for the happiness of people who refuse to be corrupted and disorganized in their misery. And it is beside the point to wonder whether or not war is desirable, since no devout soul can desire war. All a man can do is to organize it in such a way that it will bring a republican peace, and when it is over to see that the disturbances that brought it about-and that had to be encountered in the forward march of those American nations when political skill and the utilization of national strength for the task were not in the hands of all, as they are now-never again become necessary or justified. War is frightening only to mediocre souls incapable of preferring a dangerous dignity to a useless life.

The unfortunate war, upon whose sorrows a foresighted statesman must not tarry, is frightening in the present and relative sense; gold is a precious metal, and a gold coin is not given regretfully if one receives in exchange something of greater value. When a country lives in a state of silent warfare that embitters the most natural relationships and disrupts existence as if it had no roots, the precipitation of that indecisive state of war into a decisive war is a preservation of national strength that can be recommended. When two hostile entities in a country live with either admitted or unspoken aspirations for predominance, their living together can result only in the irremediable overthrow of one of them. When a nation, composed by the unfortunate hand of its rulers out of elements of hate and dissociation, emerges from the first test of war (over and above the dissensions that ended it) more united than when it entered it, the war becomes, instead of a hindrance to that nation's civilization, a new period of amalgam indispensable for uniting its diverse factors into a secure and useful republic. When in a country of Spaniards and Creoles there is to be a war waged not against the Spaniards living there, but against dependence on a nation unable to govern a people who can be happy only without that nation, then that war can count as natural allies all those Spaniards who want to be happy.

War is a political process, and this process is appropriate in Cuba because it will definitively resolve a situation of fear which keeps it in a state of confusion, and will continue to do so; because in the conflict between the country's rulers, now poor and in disrepute among themselves, and the naturally freedom-loving native, the war will bring the freedom needed to attain and enjoy a legitimate well-being; because the war will put the finishing touches on the unity and friendship of the regions and social entities without whose cordial and neighborly fellowship independence itself would be a hotbed of serious discord; because the war will give the industrious Spaniards, with their aid and neutrality, an opportunity to make people forget the blindness and cruelty with which in the previous struggle they stifled their children's virtue; and because the war will bring about a state of happiness greater than the efforts to be made in its behalf.

At the bottom of one's heart, and at a time when life weighs less than the infamy in which it crawls, war is the most beautiful and respectable form of human sacrifice. Some men think more of themselves than of their neighbors, and abhor the procedures of justice that can bring them risks or discomforts. Other men love their neighbors more than themselves, their children more than their own lives, the certain benefits of freedom more than the ever dubious benefits of an incorrigible tyranny, and expose themselves to death to enable their country to live. So when the contending elements in the islands show the impossibility of settling their difference fairly and honorably, and when the always partial agreement that they might attempt would never be sanctioned by the nation on which both depend-and would in any case be no more than a laudable and inadequate moratorium-then those who are incapable of sacrifice reject it.

But if war were to be the start of an era of revolt and jealousy which after an underserved and improbable victory might turn the country, seasoned with our noble blood, into an arena of local disputes or into a stage for ambitious forays; if war were to be the hasty and disloyal consortium of cultured men whose needs were greater than their enterprise, and if it were to be the impatient and scornful authority which for natural and in a sense noble reasons the military is in the habit of creating; if war meant that any one segment of our population would gain the upper hand, with a corresponding restlessness and decrease in power on the part of the others; and if it were not the way of adjusting in mutual respect the concerns of susceptibility and arrogance-then those who counsel and instigate which war should be accused of parricide. And in the struggle itself, which might not occur by design because of having been recommended but inevitably, honor would go only to those who had uprooted, or tried to uproot, its dreaded origins, and contempt would go to those who, either through fear or intrigue, helped prevent all the main parties to the struggle from joining forces, without unjust and unwise exclusions, in such a relationship that from the excisions the struggle would put glory beyond the danger of hallucination, and freedom out of reach of tyranny. But this journal comes to uphold the war that is eagerly desired both by the heroes of tomorrow, who fervently advocate it out of wisdom, and the heroes of yesterday, who derive their unscathed faith in its success from a lesson ten years long-the only kind of war that the naturally free and thoughtful Cuban demands and supports. It is a war in which, according to the country's needs and desires, and with the lessons learned in previous efforts, all the factors of the imminent struggle, desirable or irremediable, are united in natural proportions. And with a grandiose and well-organized effort may it lead them to a victory that will not be discredited the next day by the endeavors of the victors, or the hopes of the discontented factions, and may there be no verbose and effeminate policies to hamper the use of national strength in the urgent labors of the task.

The sensible Cuban, who knows the reasons and excuses for mistakes, admires and loves those brave men who surrendered their guns to the sad occasion, not to the enemy, and whose spirits still shine with the unselfishness which the new heroes, in the impatience of youth, envy with filial jealousy. Through too many of the very conditions that give wars a special capability, or though the legitimate power that keeps in the heart what would be near it at the hour of death, wars breed habits of authority and companionship whose mistakes-serious at times-must not grow cold in those who can distinguish in them the essential ingredient of virtue: the son's gratitude. But the patriotic purity of the men who left their lives of luxury for the battlefield, the continuous contact between virtues and human nature occasioned by the long-drawn-out war, and the natural decency of whoever carries a sublimely tried heart in his breast, give Cuba a militia that does not, like other militias, place military glory above country. Ploughing in the fields, counting in the banks, teaching in the schools, trading in the stores, working with a hero's hands in the factories, are today the occupations of those who yesterday were fighting, drunk with glory, for their country's independence. And they are impatiently awaiting the generation that will emulate them.

Marti Standing

The heart beats faster when from the safety of foreign soil it hails the men who, under the power of an implacable master, are silently preparing to topple him. It should be known, there where we have no desire to feed the threatening scaffold with the useless arts of conspiracy, that Cubans who seek from a foreign freedom only the methods of assuring their own, are too fond of their land to disrupt it without its consent. They would rather perish in exile than foment a war in which some Cuban, or some neutral inhabitant of Cuba, had to suffer as the conquered are suffering. The struggle undertaken to end one dissension must not give rise to another. Through the gates which we exiles may open-for being freer we are far less deserving-will come Cubans with the radical soul of the new country, Cubans who because of their prolonged enslavement will feel more intensely the need of replacing a government of prejudice and arrogance with a government thought which the total energies of the country may flow freely and generously. A mere change of form would not warrant the sacrifice to which we are lending ourselves, nor would a single war be adequate to complete a revolution whose chief success resulted only in the change of location of an unjust government. One would have to defend, in the redeemed country, the popular policy in which though mutual recognition there would be a coming to terms in those segments of the population where selfishness or the technicality-the punctilio-would cause clashes. And in the restless land bequeathed to us by an incapable government, new methods must build a realistic nation where emancipated lives, threatening no rights, can rejoice in the peace of all. This victorious innovation will have to be wisely and lovingly defended from those who see nothing in the revolution but the power of continuing to rule the country with the spirit they censured in their enemies. But this same excessive drift toward the past in republics has just as much right to respect and representation as has an excessive drift toward the future. And the determination to keep the country free so that a man may aspire to happiness by means of the full exercise of that freedom, will never change into a struggle of exclusion and scorn for those with whom we have wordlessly arranged a glorious and heartfelt engagement-as long as no Cubans of a stripe unknown until now are born, or as long as the idea of war is not in other hands. The war is being directed from outside of Cuba in such a way that, by the very magnitude that might alarm the easily frightened, it assures them of a peace that an incomplete war would disrupt. The war is being arranged in another country for the redemption and benefit of all Cubans. Grass grows thick in fallow fields; false ideas spread among impatient industrialists; the panic of need enters occupations devoid of intellects devoted until now mainly to the unproductive, bookshelf study of foreign civilizations, and to the discussions of rights that are almost always immoral. The revolution will mow down the grass; will reduce false industrial ideas to normal levels; will open to the mendicant intellect the genuine occupations that will assure, though man's independence, the independence of the country. Cuba is bursting with a mature glory, and it is time to strike.

The revolution will be for the benefit of all because all will have contributed to it. Due to a law which is beyond the hand of man to avoid, those who exclude themselves from the revolution, out of social objections or an arrogant sense of superiority, will be, in a way that does not clash with human rights, excluded from its honor and influence. Honor forbids a man to ask for his share in the triumph to which he refuses to contribute, and many a noble heart is perverted by a belief, in a certain sense justified, in the futility of patriotism. Patriotism should be censured when it is invoked to prevent friendship among all men of good will in the entire world, all who can see the growth of unnecessary wrongs and are honestly trying to alleviate them. Patriotism is a sacred duty when one fights to make one's country a happy place in which to live. It is painful to see a man insist upon his own rights when he refuses to fight for the rights of another. It is painful to see our cherished brothers, for the sake of defending their desire for wealth, refuse to defend the more important desire for dignity. It is painful to see men reduced, by a device exclusive to the working man, to an austerity more harmful than benign; because this isolation of the men of one occupation or a certain social circle-aside from the wise and proper agreements among persons of similar interests-encourages cliques and resistance on the part of members of other occupations and circles. Violent changes in leadership, and the continuous unrest which these shifts would bring about in the same republic, would be less beneficial to its children than a state of complete unity where, once the tools of daily work were laid aside, one man might be distinguished from another only by the warmth of his heart or the fire of his intellect.

For all Cubans, whether they come from the land of sun-burned skin or from countries where the light is gentler, the revolution in which all Cubans are involved, regardless of their color, will be equally just. If in the democratic system of equality one were to understand by "social equality" the inequality, unjust in any case, of forcing one part of the population-because it is a different color from the other-to set aside, at times harshly, in its dealings with the population of another color, the rights of friendliness and congeniality practiced by this same population among its own members-then "social equality" would be unjust for anyone who submitted to it, and wrong for those who wanted to impose it upon others. He who believes that a cultured and upright man, simply because he is black, would intrude upon the friendship of those who, because they reject social equality, would show themselves inferior to him, is grossly mistaken about the stalwart soul of the Cuban man of color. But if social equality means fair and respectful treatment without limitations of regard not justified by corresponding limitations of ability or virtue in men of any color who can, and do, honor mankind-then social equality is nothing more than recognizing the obvious impartiality of Nature.

Since it is a mark of loyalty for children to forgive the mistakes of their parents, and for friends of freedom to open their doors to all who love and respect it, the Cuban revolution will benefit not only Cubans and Puerto Ricans, but it will benefit all who esteem its purposes and abhor its blood. Having been born on Spanish soil is not what the oppressed inhabitants of the Antilles detest in the Spaniard; it is the aggressive and insolent occupation of the country where he embitters and atrophies the lives of his own children. The war is fought against the bad father, not the good one; against the adventurous husband, not the faithful one; against the arrogant and ungrateful sojourner, not the grateful and generous worker. The war is not fought against the Spaniard, but against the greed and incompetence of Spain. The Cuban son has received from his Spanish father the basic counsels of pride and independence; the father has removed his own military insignia so that his sons will not one day have to face him in battle; an illustrious Spaniard died on the gallows for Cuba; in wartime Spaniards have died beside Cubans. The Spaniard who detests the country of his children will be uprooted by the very war that he has made necessary. The Spaniard who loves his children, and who prefers the victims of freedom to its executioners, will safely live in the republic he is helping to create. The war will not be fought for the extermination of good men, but for the necessary defeat of those who are opposed to their happiness.

The son of the Antilles, because of his obviously admirable nature, is a man whose temperate judgment equals his passion for liberty. And now that the country, as disorganized as it was twenty-four years go, is abandoning a policy of useless peace that has been popular only when the country was on the brink of war and that has not taken all the available elements any further than where they were twenty-four years ago, the vigilant sons of Cuba are rising up to remedy the disorder with apostolic zeal and the wisdom of statesmen. And at the same time, they have been using the respite in bringing to light and eliminating the reasons for the tragic defeat. They have been uniting the emerging forces with their still useful elements so that the hand of the enemy, so skilled in persecution, will not fall upon those who, without this leavening of reality, might return to the inexperience and confusion responsible for making the robust glory of the last war result in blood and death. The fires are lighted and the word is spreading again. Weary of misery, the threat is crackling on the same timid heart. The young go silently to worship at the heroes' graves. The bugle is sounding in the assemblies of Cubans abroad and on the island. This journal is beginning its life in the hour of danger, to watch over freedom, to be an invincible force for unity, and to prevent the enemy from again defeating us because of our disorganization.

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