Beneath the eyes of Martí, in the heart of Washington

 

On July 1, a new statue of Cuba’s national hero, the revolutionary thinker, fighter and anti-colonial strategist, José Martí, was inaugurated at the Cuban Embassy in Washington, D.C. We publish the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs report, including the presentations delivered. English translation by Struggle-La Lucha.

From the afternoon of July 1, 2019, four years after the announcement of the restoration of diplomatic relations between Havana and Washington, the Apostle stands vigilant and thoughtful in the U.S. capital. Martí’s constant vigilance for the independence of the island and the continent was reflected in bronze: the look, weary but alert; the serene posture; the imprint of imprisonment and the insatiable search for knowledge. Nothing escaped the artist’s hand. His presence at the Cuban Embassy in the United States evokes the desire to bring closer together two peoples, who are only narrowly separated by geography.

The unveiling ceremony of the statue was presided over by Cuban Ambassador José Ramón Cabañas. Dr. Aisha Z. Cort, a professor of Cuban origin from Howard University, and Cheryl LaBash, a member of the Cuba solidarity movement, also spoke. Next, we share their interventions:

Remarks by Ambassador José Ramón Cabañas

Good afternoon everyone. We thank you for responding to our invitation, issued on short notice.

Today is a very special day for us, because in the framework of the celebrations of 100 years since the construction of our embassy building and also the 60th anniversary of the Revolution and Fidel’s visit to this building, we can finally inaugurate this statue of the Cuban National Hero José Martí y Pérez inaugurated. It is a dream of several years and several generations that has finally come true.

We want to thank, first of all, the author of the work, awarded the National Prize of Plastic Arts of Cuba in 2008, Maestro José Villa Soberón. From here, Maestro, we send our greetings.

Secondly, we must mention the artist who cast the original mold in bronze, Mr. Lázaro Valdés and his Asubronze team in Miami, Florida. We must also recognize the installers of the granite pedestal and the statue itself, Mr. Niv Fishbein of Fram Monument, who is with us today.

To reach this moment, we had the support of countless officials in Cuba who prepared and took charge of shipping the mold. We especially acknowledge the officials of the city of Washington, D.C., who led us through the process of obtaining the necessary permits for the installation of the statue, and our immediate neighbors in the Adams Morgan neighborhood, for whom any celebration at our embassy is a cause for joy.

This image of José Martí is inspired by the few photos of the time that show him full-length, organizing the war against Spanish rule among Cuban tobacco workers in Ybor City, Tampa, walking in Jamaica or coming to Washington in 1891 to participate in the Pan-American Conference that took place in what is now called the Eisenhower Building annexed to the White House.

He is a reflective, concerned Martí, a Martí who tries to understand reality and then change it. From today, he will accompany us for all time.

Today, July 1st, seemed to us an appropriate date to formally inaugurate it in the company of all of you. On this day in 1889, Edad de Oro [Golden Age] came to light for the first time in New York, a publication that Martí dedicated to the formation of new generations, because “children are the hope of the world.”  Exactly four years ago, on July 1, 2015, through an exchange of letters between our governments, we announced the re-establishment of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States, which became effective on July 20 with the reopening of our embassy.

In the conversations that were then established on a plane of equality and reciprocity between our authorities, the sense of dignity and the revolutionary work of the most universal of all Cubans was present.

It is our pleasure to present you, Dr. Aisha Cort, professor of Cuban origin from Howard University, and our friend Cheryl LaBash of the U.S. movement in solidarity with Cuba, who will also speak to the significance of the inauguration of this statue.

Thank you all very much.

Remarks by Dr. Aisha Z. Cort: Reflections on Martí 

My education of Martí comes from the home. As a child here in the United States, it was very important to my Cuban mother that I knew the figure of José Martí, not only as a poet, or “Guantanamera man” (as I called him), but as an iconic and key figure in contemporary Cuban history.

José Martí was a writer, activist, intellectual, journalist, but more than anything, he was a revolutionary. He was a fighter committed to Cuba’s independence from Spain.

He also dedicated himself to the development and progress of Cuba not only as a political entity but also in terms of the essential development of a definitely Cuban mentality and imagination. He believed that the Cuban nation was like a living being and that it could be an independent country composed of a multitude of people, experiences and realities united by the principles of an independent Cuba. Also part of his project was to establish and strengthen links between the members of the Cuban community and also between the Cuban people and their allies in Latin America, Europe and the United States. This is why today, and the dedication of this statue, is such an important day.

In Cuba there are not many places — squares, schools, hospitals, universities — that do not have a designated space for a reminder, whether it is a monument, a bust, a statue, a plaque, something that pays homage to the figure of José Martí. As the National Hero, José Martí is synonymous with the Cuban people and is the symbol that unites us wherever we are.

Between his birth in 1853 and his death in 1895 at the beginning of the Cuban War of Independence, his dedication to a free Cuba saw him taken prisoner, exiled, harassed. But also, he was inspired, respected, loved and honored by Cubans on and off the island who were pro-independence. He wrote hundreds (if not thousands) of articles, essays, poems, speeches, discussing the case for Cuba’s independence. 

Through his travels, writing, speeches and interactions with various Latin American countries, Europe and the United States, he inspired and organized several branches of the Cuban community, and the most important of these branches, for this event today, the Cuban community of the United States, which played a decisive role in achieving the independence of Cuba.

The United States served as a land of refuge and also a prolific location to foster crucial ties between Cuba and the Cuban community in the United States. Through readings and meetings, his relationships with tobacco factory workers in Tampa and workers in New York inspired his ideology about what it meant to be “Cuban.” He observed that despite the distances, members of the Cuban community in the United States were still Cubans. They were living examples of the fact that being Cuban was more than belonging to a territory. It was a way of being and a spirit, an untouchable Cubanness.

The pure existence of the Cuban community, especially in the United States, emphasized for Martí the unique, persistent and inimitable character of the Cuban people. And I would say that it was very helpful to Martí in formalizing the ideas that would serve as the basis of ideology for the modern and independent Cuban nation.

So José Martí, in his social work, in his efforts as a journalist, intellectual, activist, revolutionary, served not only as the point of contact between our countries but also as a cultural and literal bridge (symbolic) between worlds, ideas and transitions. And his legacy abounds.

And that is why it is appropriate and necessary for this statue to be installed here at the Cuban Embassy in the United States. May it serve as a visible and tangible symbol of the ties that have existed for more than a century between Cuba and the United States, and also between Cubans on the island and the Cuban community in the United States. May it commemorate our deep and lasting relationships and also the identity that has been maintained, grown and shared through the untouchable Cuban spirit that José Martí promoted.

Remarks by Cheryl LaBash: What having a statue of Martí here means to the solidarity movement

Today José Martí — revolutionary Cuban hero — stands on 16th Street in Washington, D.C., at the entrance to the Embassy of the Republic of Cuba, a building that has belonged to the Cuban people for 100 years. As tough and dangerous as our world is today — the battle is definitely not over — we are winning.

Winning in what the historical leader and eternal Commander in Chief of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro, called the battle of ideas. Martí’s ideas: “With all, for the good of all” and “Homeland is Humanity”: unity, equality, internationalism, solidarity and human dignity.

Harsher travel restrictions had unintended consequences: they heightened general consciousness about Cuba and the blockade. It strengthened our movement with new ears to hear us and new hands to work alongside us.

The resoluteness of the Cuban people and Party and the global solidarity movement has brought us to this moment. We remember:

Fidel embraced so warmly at Harlem’s Hotel Theresa; Elián González returned to his Cuban father; the Venceremos Brigade’s 50 years defying U.S. travel bans; 30 Pastors for Peace Friendshipment Caravans persisting even through hunger strikes. They can’t roll back December 17, five years ago, when the Cuban 5 came home free.

And we cannot and will never forget revolutionary Cuba’s internationalism with the people of the United States, its example of converting former military bases to schools, from Moncada to the Latin American School of Medicine. We cannot forget Medical Brigade 1586, which mobilized to save lives in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, named for Henry Reeve, a U.S. citizen and Civil War veteran who fought and died for Cuban Independence.

José Martí represents the bonds of solidarity between the people of the U.S. and Cuba. They are historic, unbreakable and will be victorious.

SLL photo: Sharon Black