The year 2002 indicates the centenary of the Republic of Cuba. Historical cycles are a propitious occasion for reflection. There are also 50 years of another social event: the coup d’am on 10 March. The birth of a new reality is always painful, as is this of initiating the great and almost infinite work of building a Republic comprising each of the citizens of a country.
History tells us about many years of sacrifices, develos and pains of all kinds to achieve independence and create our Republic. The same story tells us that our Republic was born limited or platized; and that the objectives of the 95 revolution did not end in real independence. Successive Cuban governments ceded to the weight of direct or indirect interventions in the U.S. power sector, until the fall of Machado’s government and the repeal of the Platt Amendment, which also ends the period of Presidents whose merits were based more on their actions in the war for independence than on their political thinking.
It is no less true that, in subsequent governments, corruption and theft greatly damaged national morality and that the March 10, 1952 coup has just shattered the dreams of a handful of illustrious civilians representing national dignity, what Manuel Marquez Sterling called “domestic virtue” before. Even the triumphant revolution in ’59 has failed to include all Cubans. Looks like the play hasn’t been finished. That is our past and our present, that is our history, that is our Republic. And while politically, socially and economically we are still groping, this should not be grounds for crippling, frustration and evasion.
It would be a mistake to think that it is up to each historical group to finish the work of the republic, because it is not the business of one generation, but of several. The conscience of a people is not forged immediately, but from generation to generation, when the marks or experiences of one of them are no longer those of its successors, when the immediate interests of a group are partially achieved and new interests and new purposes arise for the new group, descendant of the previous one.
In turn-of-the-century Cuba, after more than thirty years of war, of merits and glories won on the battlefield, few were immune to the militaristic virus of order and immediate obedience. Caudillism has been for us an ancient virus, inherited already from the Spanish Governors, so accustomed to putting the rules away from the Crown.
José Martí was characterized by an altruistic spirit as few are seen in history, fed on love for the human being and always expected the same from those who joined the cause that he was able to lead. But Martí was no stranger to the caudillist risks, the possible overflow of warrior leaders, and the captivation they could produce in others, endangering the Republican ideal. Martí did not hesitate to reproach Máximo Gómez, a consecrated and merit-covered General, and Antonio Maceo himself, for their conception of the centralism of power in the hands of a military man during and after the war.
Time would smooth the differences, and Gomez himself, already at the beginning of the War of ’95, harbored no fears regarding the desirability of military authority parallel to a civilian. But that letter addressed to the distinguished Dominican, dated 20 October 1884, might have been appropriate reading for others who later held positions of relevance in the direction of the Republic and remain, even today and into the future, a call for any man or woman with similar responsibilities: “A people is not founded, General , as a camp is sent; and when in the preparations for a revolution… there is no sincere desire to know and reconcile all the labors, wills and elements…what guarantees can there be that public freedoms, the only object worthy of launching a country into the fight, will be better respected tomorrow? What are we, General, or the brave and fortunate servants who, with the whip in their hand and spur in their heels, set out to take war to a people, to teach thee each other after him?…”
Political parties before 1959 did not reach the majority, they had no defined, robust and stable programs. For the same reason, the differences between opposition party and ruling party were not significant. The Revolutionary Party that Martí founded to lead the war of independence, in several cases served as a standard, but Martí’s spiritual retort was not achieved. It’s been a while.
Economically, however, we made important leaps for the time. Those who evoke the past with some nostalgia and remember the economic achievements significant for the time, are not totally wrong. Although they did not reach everyone equally, it does not seem to be the economic aspect because of the constant dissatisfations, the continuing revolts, or even the determining factor that led to and enabled the success of the 1959 Revolution. If the warlords, nor the admirers of their greatness, are not lacking in our history, at the same time our rebellious temperament resists the permanent subjugation or simple surrender of what is for each of us the feeling of freedom, not always mature or reflected, but feeling at last genuine, what Martí evoked in his letter to the Generalissimo : “public freedoms”, so often ignored.
And so we had revolution in 1895, in 1933, in 1959. One for independence, one for rescuing the republic, and the last looking for more towards national sovereignty and social justice. None complete. All violent. All for good purposes. All linked to the republic.
What’s the good side of revolutions? It is a question I have asked myself for being born in a country where the phenomenon of revolution has been present in the last two centuries of history, especially in these hundred years of Republican life. Father Varela wanted to overtake her because he knew precisely that it was a social evil that would come anyway, and with advancing it he felt that it could be manageable and his excesses would be avoided. Martí evoked it, with pain, as the necessary means, always proposing that no one be excluded after its success, nor the Spanish themselves. Further this way, a group of young people led by Fidel Castro saw in this violent act the only way to achieve the redemption of the poorest and control national sovereignty. Although I personally distinguish between this last revolution, the other initiated by Martí and the first evoked by Father Varela, I do believe that the phenomenon revolution and the revolutionaries have been part of our history, it is something that has always been with us, although I do not evoke it or excel as a social phenomenon that generates fratricide and pain. Other civilian methods should have been avoided, but they were not realized. The only more reasonable answer I have found to the previous question was found in Crane Brinton’s book Anatomy of Revolution: “revolutions are, perversely, a symptom of strength and youth in societies.” Human mysteries … I hope we’re not that young anymore.
The social, cultural or economic achievements that we achieved before 1959 were the test of the intelligence, executive capacity and aptitude for the action of Cubans. Since before 1959 human capital was our main wealth. That human capital was boosted after 1959. The level of education and the elevation of quality of life – which for many decreases today – make Cuban human capital an important quarry of possibilities. But we are still debating insecurity, economic instability and the desire to emigrate from many. Perhaps because we consider the Republican work as the mission of a certain moment, in which everything is definitely done as the work of an artist. But even the artist’s work, when performed by others, reaches proportions that its author did not even imagine. How much more the republic that is, or should be, the government of all!
Cuban Christians are not exempt from thinking and feeling on the subject. Personally, it motivates me both by loving your neighbor and that idea of Martí so widespread today out of context that “Fatherland is humanity”. This idea, which appeared in the newspaper Patria in January 1895, was applicable to the nationals of a country, of any country, because for Martí every coterráneo represented humanity and thus the homeland becomes humanity and is “that part of humanity that we see more closely, and in which we were born; -and it is not to be allowed that by deception of the holy name useless monarchies, ventruding religions or brazen and raging policies should not be allowed, nor because these sins are often given the name of a homeland, man must refuse to do his duty of humanity, in the part of it which he has closest… Homeland is that…” That is why I must not go so far to approach humanity if I have it so close: it is my neighbour.
So here we are, a hundred years after we have started a cobbled path and nothing easy on which we were put by the liberators of that time and with the external conditionings that our heroes for independence did not desire. Here we are with our Republic, which does not matter so much if the experts call it third because there was a first and a second, or if tomorrow a fourth or a fifth emerges, because each number would mean that the work is still done. Our Republican history is neither better nor worse than others, it is and nothing else. Here we are alone with our history and before our destiny, which will not be fair if only one of us were relegated. Alone with our desire to live and have what our physical and mental abilities can create. Alone with our past achievements and mistakes, on the doorstep of our future achievements and mistakes, but with the inevitable possibility of moving forward together, to make mistakes together and reap success together. Alone with national independence and the opportunity to continue straightening out our Republic, not republishing or redoing it by erasing the past.
Our Republic needs everyone to take their place and do their duty without impediments, without evasiveness, without reservations, without fears, without ties or barriers of any kind. The Republic needs each of us to be humanity for the other, and for our own humanity to make the Fatherland. I don’t think it’s easy, but it does.
This isn’t a special year, it’s just our Republican centenary.