Another Pepe

I was 19 and he had died a hundred years earlier. At school we were terrified when the grammar tests asked us to analyze his complex sentences. It was repeated so many times that Jose Marti was the “intellectual author of the assault on the Moncada barracks,” that we even imagined his body’s presence on that morning of shooting and killing. On the political billboards his sayings – taken out of context – adorned a city submerged in the miseries of the Special Period.* I remember we sarcastically transformed some of them: “poverty happens: what does not happen is disgrace,” we changed to, “poverty happens, what does not happen is the 174,” referring to the bus route connecting Vedado with La Vibora.

There was no shortage of the dis-informed who blamed the Apostle for what was happening, and during the days of blackouts and very little food they visited various punishments on his plaster busts. The excessive distortion of Marti’s ideas – repackaged according to the convenience of the powers-that-be – led dozens of my classmates to reject his work once and for all. Only a small group of us continued to read his love poems and free verse, preserving for ourselves another Pepe, more human, closer. I was then at the Pedagogical Institute, a springboard that would allow me to major in Philology or Journalism, two profession he had engaged in brilliantly. As presented to me there, he was a gentleman with an energetic face who must be unquestionably worshiped, officially defined as the inspiration for what we lived.

In the days leading up to the one hundredth anniversary of his death it occurred to me to write a small editorial for the newsletter prepared by several of us students. With the title Letter by Letter, the publication was filled with poems, literary analysis, and a section dedicated to the language mistakes we heard in the corridors of the Spanish and Literature Department. I wrote some brief and passionate lines where I said that we formed part of “another hundred-year generation” that would do our part to save the country from other dangers. That tiny violation of the established norms for interpreting the national hero ended with the closing of the modest periodical and my first encounter with the boys of the apparatus. Only they had the capacity to decipher and wield his writings, they seemed to want to tell me with that veiled warning, but I smiled through clenched teeth: I knew another Marti, more unmanageable, more rebellious.

Translator’s note:
*The Special Period:The very difficult time in the 1990s after the fall of the Soviet Union and the end of its subsidies for Cuba.


17 thoughts on “Another Pepe

  1. 16Barbara Curbelo

    Junio 6th, 2010 at 00:30

    Castrofascism is always trying to associate journalists job with political and even penal issues like the thug curbelo does in this case….. journalist work is to inform and they get paid for do that…….. what yo have to do (if you like so much FOIA and other freedom of information institutions) is to go to the public records where those 14 (not 5 but 14 criminals) criminals acts and recorded trial sessions are stored and learn there the confesions of the crimes made by 5 self and the the other 9 criminals…… go there and learn they are common criminals in a mafia like assosiation for cause the death to other people and to perform terrorist acts that could be used for accusing exile cubans……. that’s the true easy to find.
    Here is the real histori os the 5 spies:

    Objective of espionage network in jail now in USA.

    The civilian targets have been identified as follows: Penetration of exile organizations to accomplish a campaign of disinformation, confusion, animosity and disunion among targeted groups. Another objective was to encourage and to facilitate the commission of hostile actions against Cuba in violation the Neutrality Act of the United States. Also, alleged was the sending of threatening letters to members of Congress impersonating members of Cuban exile organizations. It has not been reported that the 10 had committed any act of violence against the US, although there are documents that mention the preparation of terrorist acts against US Air Force bases in the US. ( 5 )

    Here is the complete history:

  2. U.S. government — through Radio and TV Martí — had secretly paid tens of thousands of dollars to journalists in Miami, who, during the politically-charged prosecution of the Five, published provocative articles about Cuba and against the Five.

    1. Pablo Alfonso Of El Nuevo Herald
    Payment – Pago: $58,600 during the trial
    Total: $252,325 (11/1/99-8/22/07)

    2. Wilfredo Cancio del Nuevo Herald (The Miami Herald)
    Was paid $4,725 during trial
    $21,800 (9/30/2000 – 11/20/2006)

    3. Ariel Remos – Diario Las Americas
    $4,725 during trial
    TOTAL $24,350 (11/1/1999- 11/20/2006)

    4. Enrique Encinosa – Comentarista Radio Mambi WAQI por mucho tiempo que dedico mucha cobertura al caso de LOS CINCO desde suarresto.
    Longtime news commentatoon Radio Mambi WAQI, which covered the Cuban 5 extensively, from the time of their arrest
    TOTAL (during trial) Durante Juicio – $5,200.00
    TOTAL (12/07/2000 – 11/04/2003) – $21,800.00

    5. Helen Ferre – Editor of Editorial Page of Diario Las Americas
    Paid – $1,125.00 – during trial (durante el juicio)
    Paid – TOTAL – $6,025 (2/21/01 – 9/25/03)

  3. -” The partisan when he is engaged in a dispute, cares nothing about the rights of the question but is anxious only to convince his hearers of his own assertions”-

  4. <b.Martí, México and Socialism

    Martí’s first contact with the conflict between capital and labor came in Mexico. He stated:

    “The right of the worker never can be hatred of the capital: it is the harmony, the conciliation, the common approach between the two of them.” – Escenas Mexicanas, 1875

    “Servile imitation causes one to lose the way in economy, in literature, and in politics. . . . In each country, labor and capital have a particular history; each country has its own peculiarities in the conflict between them…. Our own history calls for our own solutions. Let us not tie down the Mexican economist to certain rules of doubtful value even in their country of origin.” – Escenas Mexicanas, 1875

    “It is always a misfortune for liberty that liberty be one party” – Escenas Mexicanas,

    “Rich is a nation that counts with many small owners. “- Nuestra América, 1878.

  5. The Coming Slavery

    The Coming Slavery is the title of 1884 article by Herbert Spencer, English philosopher and political theorist. Spencer said,”All socialism involves slavery. That which fundamentally distinguishes the slave is that he labours under coercion to satisfy anothers desires.” “That future slavery”, said Martí, “is socialism” And Martí added, prophesying what would happen in a socialist state:

    “All the power which would be gradually acquired by the caste of public officials, bound by their need to remain in a privileged and lucrative position , would be gradually lost by the people, who lack the same reasons for complicity in hopes and profits to confront the public officials fettered together by their common interests. As all public needs would eventually be fulfilled by the State, the officials would then acquire the enormous influence which by nature falls upon those who distribute any right or benefit. The man who now wants the State to take care of him so as not to have to take care of himself would have to work in the proportion, for the time and in the occupation that the State would see fit to assign to him, as the State, on whom all the duties would befall, would be endowed with all the necessary powers to implement the means to fulfill the work involved.

    From being its own servant, man would then become a slave of the State. From being a slave of capitalists, as they are now called, he would become a slave of the public officials. A slave is a man who works for another who holds control of him, and in that socialist system the community would dominate man, who would then render all his work to the community. And as public officials are human beings and, therefore, abusive, proud and ambitious, and would wield great power in that organization, abetted by all those who would take advantage or would hope to take advantage of the abuses, and by those vile forces that always prowl among the oppressed, the terror, prestige or cunning of those who rule, this system of official distribution of common labor would in a short time suffer from the grief, violence, thefts and distortions that the spirit of individuality , the austerity and the daring of genius and the wiliness of vice soon and fatally create in any human organization…Autocracy will abuse the common people, exhausted and hard working. Regrettably, generalized slavery will be the result.”

    “La Futura Esclavitud”, La América, New York, Abril de 1984, página 954 de las Obras Completas de José Martí. Edición Conmemorativa del Cincuentenario de su muerte, Volume 1, Editorial Lex, La Habana, Cuba.

  6. FROM #7 …
    to all defenders of the reBolution:


  7. 9Barbara Curbelo

    Mayo 21st, 2010 at 10:52

    Castrofascism made unnecesary the annexion of Cuba in order to get it richness…… castrofascism delivered Cuba’s richness to USA while luring many fool to believe it was fighting the empire!!!!!
    USA owns today all major Cuba’s industries and major qualified human resources because castrofascism giving policy.

  8. The “note” in #5 pales in importance compared to what Jose Marti said …
    “Note” again:
    those 14 years in safety (as it is for all within the law of the land) allowed Marti to develop his plans, meet people & do his work, without the much worry about his safety as if he would have been in Cuba at that time in history.
    While you are at it … read #7.

  9. Albert #5 – “It should be noted that from the safety of the United States (for over 14 years) is that Marti organized a new rebellion against the Spanish rulers of Cuba”
    Although forced into exile (he wasn’t a rat abandoning ship on 1/1/1959), he never expected anyone else to do his fighting for him. That’s why he died in combat in Cuba; for independence, not annexation.

  10. -“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 IN WHICH TO STAND”-

    Like #6 From Jose Marti

  11. -“Perhaps the enemies of liberty are such only because they judge it by its loud voice. If they knew its charms, the dignity that accompanies it, how much a free man feels like a king, the perpetual inner light that is produced by decorous self-awareness and realization, perhaps there would be no greater friends of freedom than those who are”-

  12. -“There should be the highest degree of awareness of one’s own rights as well as respect for the rights of others and the latter should awaken a livelier and more delicate sense that the former.
    Abuse of the first can only result in weakness, but abuse of the second can lead to despotism”-
    Jose Marti

    It should be noted that from the safety of the United States (for over 14 years) is that Marti organized a new rebellion against the Spanish rulers of Cuba

  13. -“We are free, but not to be evil, not to be indiferent to human suffering, not to profit from the epople, from the work created and sustained through their spirit of political association, while refusing to contribute to the political state that we profit from”-
    Jose Marti


    THE WASHINGTON POST:Judy and Alan Gross’s family is at heart of standoff between Washington and Cuba- By Mary Beth Sheridan-Washington Post Staff Writer -Friday, May 21, 2010

    It was 6 o’clock on a Friday evening, and Judy Gross knew the drill. She checked the computer and saw that her husband’s plane had just landed at Dulles. Alan would be home in Potomac in 45 minutes, bursting in the door with stories from his latest trip to Cuba, she figured. She bustled around her gleaming kitchen, preparing Shabbat dinner.
    But the clock hit 7, and there was no Alan. Eight, and still no Alan. She called the airline and discovered that her 60-year-old husband had not made the flight.

    “So then I knew something wasn’t right,” Judy recalled.

    She didn’t panic. Like other international aid workers in Washington, Alan had had his share of mishaps on far-flung assignments — car accidents and nasty stomach bugs. His wife asked U.S. diplomats to check the Havana hospitals.

    But when the phone rang a half-hour later, Judy learned Alan wasn’t sick. He was in Villa Marista, the Cuban state security prison. “I was scared,” Judy stuttered, in her first in-depth media interview. “I was very scared for his safety.”

    That December evening marked the start of a harrowing five-month family drama and a new standoff between Washington and its Cold War nemesis. Cuban officials have publicly accused Gross of working for American intelligence agencies. The United States government denies that.

    But, as details have trickled out, it appears Gross was involved in something stranger: a secretive program to foster democracy in Cuba.

    The program has been around for years, using travelers posing as tourists to slip typewriter ribbons, shortwave radios and, more recently, laptop computers into Cuba. But under the George W. Bush administration, officials flush with cash sought new ways to reach out to civil society.

    And that’s how a klezmer-playing Maryland dad wound up providing Wikipedia to Cuban Jews.

    Judy said her husband, a “gadget geek,” had seemed unaware that he was courting danger when a Bethesda contractor signed him up to provide Internet access to civil-society groups on the island. “When he heard about this, he just said ‘Yes!’ ” she recalled.

    Alan P. Gross had always had an itch for adventure. Growing up in Baltimore, he’d helped out in his dad’s window-cleaning business. But after marrying Judy in 1970, he earned a master’s in social work and began working with Jewish groups. One of his jobs was taking local Jews on trips to Israel.

    “They all loved him, of course,” his wife said. People warmed to Alan’s buoyancy, his sense of humor, his desire to help. “He really could solve people’s problems,” Judy said, sitting in her kitchen, wearing jeans and a baggy black turtleneck, a curtain of salt-and-pepper hair framing her face. The smell of blueberry muffins wafted from the oven.

    Alan became entranced by travel. He moved on to projects funded by businesses, humanitarian organizations and the U.S. Agency for International Development — assisting Palestinian dairy farmers, helping Kenya’s tourism industry, introducing modern court reporting in Gambia. For weeks, he’d be away. Then he’d return toting a tribal mask or a South Asian tribal rug.

    “He loved the people,” Judy said. “He would come home and have stories — he ate at this person’s house, and sat on the floor, and — just all kinds of stories. And he loved the fruit of his work.”

    Sometimes his two daughters would complain about sharing their father with a world far beyond their Potomac cul-de-sac.

    “It was always an issue,” said Judy, a psychotherapist at Suburban Hospital. “The kids would say, ‘Why can’t you get a normal job?’ ”

    But a cubicle wasn’t for Alan.

    “He didn’t want to work for The Man,” said their 22-year-old daughter, Nina, grinning.

    Alan didn’t just have stories. He had ideas. Big ideas. Like an international peace concert on the Green Line between Israel and Gaza. That didn’t work out.

    He came up with a plan to keep Palestinian produce from getting stuck at Israeli checkpoints. “What was his saying?” Judy asked her daughter, and Nina broke into a smile. “When cargo flows, the economy grows!” the women chorused. That didn’t get too far, either.

    Alan had his dreams closer to home, too, like a machine to create fertilizer from the mountains of poultry-farm dung that threatened the Chesapeake Bay.

    “I said to him once, ‘Why don’t you run for state Senate or something? You have all these ideas,’ ” Judy said. “He said absolutely not. Politics suck.”

    Some of Alan’s entrepreneurial ideas did succeed, though. He became fixated on using technology to help poor people connect with the world. His business took off, with contracts to provide satellite Internet service to private organizations and American aid groups in Afghanistan and Iraq.

    They were dangerous places. But “you’re moving in a cocoon. You’ve got the USAID mission, you’ve got embassies,” said Bob Otto, one of Alan’s colleagues. “In Cuba you don’t. . . . He might have been a little lulled.”


  15. Barbara Culero,

    Good to see your poetic writings in this post!

    MACLEANS.CA:Human rights abuse in Cuba: Canadians should be alarmed-by John Geddes on Thursday, May 20, 2010 –
    When Canadians concern themselves with human rights abuses these days—if they do at all— their minds tend to turn to jailed Chinese dissidents, to detainees in Afghan prisons, and maybe to Omar Khadr, the young Canadian citizen still held by the U.S. at Guantanamo Bay.
    There’s good reason to worry about any or all of these issues. But it seems strange to me that Cuba, so long a focus of fascination for many Canadians, rarely seems to register on our human rights radar. It should, and maybe it soon will.

    It’s taken one dissident Cuban hunger-striker’s death to attract a bit of the world’s attention, and another’s sickness to hold it. Orlando Zapata Tamayo died in February and Guillermo Farinas Hernandez has been hospitalized since March.

    The hunger strikes create a contentious backdrop for the planned visit of the Vatican’s foreign minister, Archbishop Dominique Memberti, to Havana next month. The Catholic church is increasingly active in Cuba, as its old Communist regime struggles to counter the recent uptick in international attention to the way it crushes dissent and silences debate.

    Earlier this month, PEN Canada, represented by novelist Yann Martel, among others, joined an international “Freedom to Write in the Americas” campaign. Although PEN takes aim at the repression writers face in other Latin American countries too, it’s hard to miss the fact that of 30 writers imprisoned for their work in the Western Hemisphere, 26 are in Cuba.

    Canadians should be at the forefront of protesting that outrage. After all, we know Cuba better than just about anybody: Canada is Cuba’s largest source of tourists, with 818,000 of us traveling there in 2008, nearly 35 per cent of all visitors to the island. That’s a lot of contact. It shouldn’t come without a sense of obligation to speak out and exert pressure.

    Some argue that talking too loudly about Cuba’s systematic violation of its citizens’ human rights is counter productive. John Keenan, writing in the Guardian today, reports that two British professors, commenting on the release of PEN’s report Freedom of Expression in Cuba, “called for journalists to tread lightly when highlighting human rights abuses on the island, for fear of strengthening the Castro regime’s argument that the sovereignty of the island is under siege.”

    It’s hard to accept that cautious approach when dissidents are starving themselves to death for the right to free expression. And when Human Rights Watch has recently documented and reported on the extent of government repression in Cuba, painting a disturbing picture in this gripping New York Review of Books essay.

    For Canadians, I think, proximity matters. PEN reports that “only China, Iran and Burma imprison more writers [than Cuba does] for exercising their right to freedom of expression.” But China, Iran and Burma are a long way off for most Canadians, whereas Cuba is one of our favourite destinations for a week of sun and sand.

    On Feb. 25, Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon issued a statement decrying the death two days earlier of Orlando Zapata Tamayo. We can only hope that, behind the scenes, the Canadian government is doing all it can, and not simply waiting for the next dissident to die.

  16. Yoani, you must have been skipping class the day they read, “The homeland is an altar not a pedestal.“ – José Martí

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