Honor to the One Who Deserves It

Throughout the history, numerous Cuban personalities have been asked what they thought of José Martí, what he was like. Enrique Collazo, Gonzalo de Quesada Miranda, Jorge Mañach and Cintio Vitier were those who took up the task of describing the Cuban poet and journalist.

All of them agreed that “the Apostle of Independence” was a singular man, as singular as a Cuban can be. In appearance he was a typical Cuban: small, with black hair and eyes, thin, modest, neat and tidy. He spoke in a low voice and had fine manners. He liked to show his feelings openly, although he didn’t laugh very often. He had aristocratic tastes, habits and customs. He took the concept of democracy to the limit.

José Martí’s Portrait
José Martí’s Portrait

When he was nervous, he used to walk at a fast pace, which earned him the nickname of the “squirrel man”, coined by Collazo. Gonzalo de Quesada Miranda says that José Martí stood out for his high morals and for being a tireless worker.

His exceptionality stemmed from a brain capable of achieving many things. According to Cintio Vitier, who studied his life for years, José Martí possessed the mystery of genius: “he was an apostolic genius – there’s no other way to explain the tremendous humanity that unfolded in him among the ordinary people of the capital of Havana.”

Others see him differently. The communist dictatorship of the brothers Fidel and Raúl Castro has used him as their shield and flag, as their accomplice, attributing him the authorship of plans and schemes he had never been involved in.

Can you imagine Martí directing a surprise attack against military barracks, at dawn, in disguise, remaining outside, but not fighting when necessary? And to top it all off, can you imagine him ordering the torture of some of his wounded enemies?

Can you imagine Martí as General Castro, ordering to shoot the defeated enemies or to assassinate three young black men as a warning, young men who had not actually committed any serious crimes?

Can you imagine Martí permitting violations of civil rights? Him, who is known to have said: “a nation is made of the rights and opinions of all its children, not of the rights and opinions of only one class of them.”

Luckily, the Cuban dictatorship has failed in its efforts to clothe our Apostle in socialist attire.

We will always remember José Martí dressed in a suit with a black tie, a symbol of mourning for his enslaved homeland, with an iron ring on his hand with the letters C-U-B-A engraved in it, a ring made of a piece of chain he wore as prisoner No. 113.

Our beloved José Martí would never have taken possession of Cuba because for him, “a nation is rich when it has many small owners”; because “a nation that wants to be free should achieve freedom in business”; because “only a country that thinks more about agriculture than politics is on the right track”; because “tyranny can have various forms, some of which may hide behind beautiful names and great deeds, but it is still tyranny”; because “keeping hold of power for a long time is meaningless”; because “in a totalitarian regime, all citizens must be soldiers fulfilling their obligation under the Constitution to arm themselves in defence of their country.”


Tania Díaz Castro (*1939) is co-founder of National Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba. For over two decades she was reporter for official magazines. In 1980's she spent 18 months in jail for joining Human Rights Party.