By Wilkie Delgado Correa on January 27, 2016
The 4th Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) in Ecuador should continue the process of strengthening this organization whose purpose is to gather up all Latin American and Caribbean countries into one grouping, along with their differences and similarities. CELAC harbors the diverse social and political ideas of its present governments, both shared and contested.
The dream envisioned by Bolivar and many liberators of Our America — which Martí differentiated from the other America, the northern one, which was not ours through a great accumulation of reasons — has become a reality. That happened thanks to the crisis in this region that the United States may have provoked through its usual politics. And of course the new reality is due also to imperatives of a world that, through unavoidable geo-political necessity, have favored certain associations of nations with different purposes. But one must not forget that if indeed CELAC’s beginning stems from this change in epochs, then the role of some of the region’s leaders, notably Hugo Chavez, was decisive. With their preaching of union in diversity, they guided all governments toward consensus in order to establish a vanguard organization for this part of the world.
Confronting national, regional, and international problems is the great challenge for nations, particularly those of “Our America.” These nations have a common history extending over centuries. Their situation of exploitation by colonial European powers continued after they gained independence. And, importantly, there was exploitation by a new neo-colonizing power – the United States of America.
Celebration of this CELAC Summit in Ecuador coincided with the timing of the Second International Conference “With all and for the good of all” that was taking place on January 28 in Havana to honor the 163rd anniversary of the birthday of José Martí.
This happy coincidence leads me to update our present era with some ideas of Martí who said, “I am a son of America; I owe myself to her.” Martí pointed out that he was “dedicating himself to revealing Our America, shaking it up, and creating it – and urgently.”
He was offering his judgment as to possible solutions for peoples of that time, 1884. They look like prescriptions for today inasmuch as there are still things needing to be done in many countries, for indeed the region may be the most unequal on the planet.
“In America, then, [writes Martí], there’s nothing more important than to distribute land well, educate the Indians where they are, open roads through fertile regions, do a lot of seeding of the surrounding land, substitute elementary scientific instruction for useless elementary literary instruction … and wait to see the peoples grow.” (“La America” magazine, New York, May 1884)
And in that same year he was denouncing indications cropping up then of people native to the island becoming obsequious and clear signs too of rapacious greed from the northern power.
According to Martí, “They say that certain peoples from our territories had become used to going to the United States and offering pieces of our land in exchange for this or that kind of support. And it would be good to know who they were in order to make a pillory to be put up in the clouds and then put their name on it in big black letters.” (La America” magazine, May 1884)
Three years later he elaborated upon his vision of the Yankee-mania motivating Latin American traitors: “…and two styles reign in writings emanating now from our America, and they are equally harmful. One, which is not for those who know what they see, portrays these United States as a house of marvels and the flower of the world …The other is a yearning for the colonial power, Spain.” (“American Economist,” July 1888)
In 1889 Martí was warning: “And do the peoples of America have to put their businesses in the hands of their only enemy? Or to gain time, and to build a population, and to unite, and really to warrant the credit and respect of nations, how can that neighbor not moderate its will or gain political morality though internal or external insight before it dares to demand submission of someone, and before it decides to take on the risk and opprobrium of throwing itself – just because of being on the same continent – onto decent, capable, just peoples – and like the United States, free and prosperous peoples?” (Report on International Conference II, Washington, La Nacion, November 2 1889)
And, “in the battle the United States is preparing to unleash against the rest of the world, who do we go to for allies, especially those in the prime of youth? … Natural friends grounded in freedom will make better allies than a chorus subjected to that people of very different interests, mixed composition, and terrifying problems. They are a people determined to engage with the world in arrogant and perhaps puerile defiance, before having fixed their own house.” (Report on International Conference, November 2, 1889)
Looking ahead in his 1891 essay “Our America,” Martí claimed that, “America is being saved from all its dangers. Some of the republics are still beneath the sleeping octopus, but others, under the law of averages, are draining their lands with a sublime and furious haste, as if to make up for centuries lost. Still others, forgetting that Juarez went about in a carriage drawn by mules, hitch their carriages to the wind, their coachmen to soap bubbles. Poisonous luxury, the enemy of freedom, corrupts the frivolous and opens the door to the foreigner.”
He suggested in the same essay that, “The scorn of our formidable neighbor who does not know us becomes Our America’s greatest danger. And, because the day for the visit is close, I urge that our neighbor come to know us, and soon, so that he will not scorn us. Through ignorance the neighbor might even end up subjecting Our America to its greed. But then knowing about us, the neighbor will remove its hands out of respect.”
So Martí was conscious of these political truths: “America has to promote everything that may bring peoples together and has to denounce all that keeps them apart.” And, “Everything is acceptable that unifies the peoples.” (Report on Monetary Commission, Washington, March 30 1891)
Despite his awareness of threats, he was optimistic. He points out something that, after the terrible history of subordination to the interests of the United States, appears only today to have validity, which is the second independence of Our America:
“Today people in America speak the concrete language that makes the idea [of a second independence] fit the way the steel goes into a sword belt, and thought processes native to America now reign and shine … We were in a pest hole and now we become a crucible.” (Patria magazine, 1894)
Martí was also projecting his thinking to the fate of the Caribbean islands or the Antilles: “The Antilles are like the measuring stick of America… The slave Antilles came to take their place as nations in an American world prior to the disproportionate development of the most powerful section of America and prior to the resulting conversion of territories into a theater of universal greed. These are lands that could still be a garden for its inhabitants and a guidepost for the world.” (“The Third Year of the Cuban Revolutionary Party,” Patria, April 17, 1894)
And as he was setting the “necessary war” in motion and as his battlefield death in Cuba was approaching, Martí on March 25, 1895, made a clear-sighted judgment that became reality in the following century: “The free Antilles will preserve the independence of Our America, and the dubious and tarnished honor of English America, and perhaps may hasten and stabilize the equilibrium of the world.” (Letter to Federico Enríquez y Caravajal, March 25, 1895)
After the triumph of the Revolution, Fidel Castro, Martí’s disciple in thought and actions, had to express his most intimate political dream, which he saw come true many years later with the creation of CELAC. At a press conference with foreign journalists on January 22, 1959, he told about “a dream that I have in my heart, one that all people in Latin America share, which is that one day, I will be seeing an entirely united Latin America that will be one single force.”
And thus Fidel was predicting the liberation of Latin America. Interviewed by [Jeffrey M] Elliot and [Mervyn M] Dymally of the United States on March 27-29, 1985, he reflected: “I don’t think we are doing a disservice to the people of the United States when we insist that a truly explosive situation is building in Latin America. It’s going to happen, no doubt, unless certain problems are resolved and urgently. And when this occurs, the United States is then going to be facing serious problems that can’t be dealt with through the use of concepts, ideas, and methods formerly employed in handling Latin American peoples.” (From “Nothing Can Stop the Course of History,” (Pathfinder Press, 1986)
A parade of truths has been demonstrated that has nourished the history of Our America and now explains our present era. We can conclude that more than enough reasons exist for us to be rendering tribute to our worthy leaders and to be fighting to save and guarantee conquests attained at the price of so much effort and so many sacrifices undertaken to snatch away the claws of the imperial eagle from the heart, soul, and destiny of our peoples.
Translated by W. T. Whitney Jr.