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tv   Jose Marti the United States and Race  CSPAN2  March 4, 2017 1:08pm-1:31pm EST

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connections and applications to the local surrounding community of which santa clara continues to be a part of. in short, these are really rich, historical materials for getting a better understanding of what life was like. having a good understanding of the past helps build the future. even if you are not an expert in the subject, there is always something valuable that i think anyone can take away by looking at and engaging with these materials. it always creates a really mazing, transformative experience regardless of the purposes that are driving them to come look at the materials. it really does bring history and life in general to life in ways
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that are just really amazing. >> while in san jose, we caught up with author anne fountain, author of the book, jose >> moderator: he is cuba's national hero, a patriot, he lived in the united states for 15 years and wrote a great deal about our country. he wrote so much that he has novels, poetry and essays. he is like a washington,
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lincoln, emerson all rolled into one. the book we are talking about is called jose marti, the united states and race. because he lived in a united states and wrote so much about the united states at a crucial time, the aftermath of the civil war, reliving events of that, great immigration coming into the united states, the exploration of the west, pushing indians off their lands. all of this is part of the landscape of the united states that jose marti wrote about and race is a big part of that. race is also important because marti who wanted to get cuba free from spain -- that didn't happen until after the spanish-american war of 1898 -- realized for cuba to succeed as a republic, a free nation,
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blacks and whites needed to work together and it needed to be a cuba-for-all. one of the things i realized in researching what marti wrote about the united states is that the lessons about race in the united states informed his desire to see a raceless cuba, one that was open and available for everybody. so his experience in the united states in one sense helped him develop a more comprehensive view of what cuba should be. he comes in 1880, he is away for approximately six months in venezuela. then he comes back to the united states. he was living mainly in new york city. certainly in the 1880s, he took on the job of writing about the united states for latin american
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newspapers. in mexico and argentina. he wrote for two of the biggest, most important newspapers in latin america telling them about what was happening in the united states. part of that was what he observed living in new york. a lot of that was what he observed or absorbed from u.s. newspapers. he read and essentially translated and then seasoned with his own style what he saw happening. what did he see? he saw prosperous black citizens living in the north. he reports on parades, sixth avenue, of former slaves who were living a different life in the morth. he saw signs of progress. he wrote about immigration which was important.
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the early 1880s and 1890s were full of print accounts and others of what immigrants in the united states were facing. they were coming from eastern europe, from ireland, and he noted the reaction of people in the united states to these immigrant groups. it is a story of some turmoil. he was very concerned about living conditions for people in new york, about inadequate housing. in all he reported about living in new york city, he was a champion for justice. now, what did he write about the u.s. south? that is very important and a big focus of may book. he didn't travel extensivextens the united states south until the 1890s who went to florida to
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raise money for cuban communities who were in the tobacco indust ry and he was vey successful. but he read accounts from the newspapers in the united states. these accounts are really significant. marti saw that the civil war had not healed the wounds that after reconstruction there were vicious attacks on blacks in the south. raids -- he doesn't use the word ku klux klan but he uses words similar. this is covered in the press. there is one essay that only became available in print recently. it was sent to a paper in mexico. it is an account from 1892. it has three depictions of life for blacks in the united states.
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one is african-americans who are fleeing to liberia because of how things were going for them in the united states. there is another somewhat curious one about the cakewalk. and the cakewalk is a peculiar north american tradition. this is a story about a cakewalk in the north in new york city. the cakewalk was an event in which african-americans were encouraged to strut, perform movements before a white public and the reward was a cake. there is an expression in english it is a cakewalk and i
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never understood that till this event. but marti understood an event demeaning the blacks is not good for them. it is part of a much bigger picture in which white expectations dominated or controlled what african-americans did whether it was owners forcing their slaves to dance so they would look happy. forced performance in a way. so those two aspects are there. now the really ferocious part of this one essay that has three different components about black life in the united states in 1892 is an event that took place on the border of texas and arkansas. it was when a black man was burned to death. he records how a man was accused of rape and as we know from reading history there were lots
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of accusations of this type. no proof, no trial, no justice really. but what marti points out too is a woman cries she was assaulted. the word often used was offended. her word is taken, a man is arrested and 5,000 people gather to watch her set this man on fire. now, imagine the people that come to watch something like that. the other thing i found in researching this book is that lynchings were often like this in the south. going into the 20th century, crowds gathered and watched. and i know that marti must have been thinking we should not have something like this in cuba. slaves in colonial cuba, many of
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them worked in sugar cane. arguious work. many accounts say the population of colonial latin america was the shortest lifespan of slaves, particularly those working with the sugarcane. it is hard to cut. and the factory model of the sugarcane plantation meant that after the work in the fields was done sugar had to be processed. and slaves were put to work at that. so it is no exaggeration to say as historians pointed out that slaves might be putting in 17-hour days. this is really hard. and slaves were tortured and abused. i think what i would like to really bring out is that aside from the very negative aspects that are similar there is nothing in cuba like the
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gatherings to watch lynchings, setting people on fire that is a tragedy, in u.s. history. when we think about race and marti and i have spoken mainly about his experiences in the united states but a very important part is what marti experienced as a boy in cuba. the difference between the u.s. and cuba is that the slave trade continued in cuba in till the end of the 1860s. maybe 1869. so what this means is another one of those significant differences between the united states and cuba in regard to slavery. his father, marti's father, who was originally from valin --
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valencia, spain. money and greed won out and there were bribes and the slave trade continued but marti's father was sent to an area in what is now the province of mattanza to keep slaves from landing. marti saw his father's efforts that were not entirely successful and he saw how slaves were treated. and he wrote later on who has seen a slave whipped and i am translating liberally but and not feel his cheeks burn with shame. he sees how slaves are treated and it affects him profoundly. some of his accounts of this are not recorded until much later. but there are -- in his notes, there are these comments about
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how dreadful it is for someone to be treated that way. something he saw firsthand as a boy and it marked his life. another account, in his most famous book of poetry -- it is hard to summarize who it was because he wrote poems in the united states when he was recooperating in the caskill mountains. he was ill and the doctor sent him there. he wrote a book of poems that are very famous today. they are called honest, frank sincere poems in english. they have another significant link to today because i am gonna
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try to summarize a complex story. these stories are very much an expr expression of what marti was feeling. they are also linked to a poplar song. in cuba, a prominent musician decided it would be good to combine the poetry with a poplar melody in cuba. so the music had been there all along but now it is combined with marti's verses. this musician had a disciple that went with his combination of the music and poetry to the
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caskill mountains and talked to pat seager and helped him produce the idea of the song we now call one cadem to paul seager. ♪ 12k3w4r50i6r7b8g9sdz
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>> it is a book of 46 poems. there is a poem about the slave trade and it is no doubt a reflection of that time marti spent as a boy seeing first-hand the horrors of slavery. it is hard to duplicate the poetry. i have done a translation of that work of poetry and i like my translation but the poetry is a short poem. it is actually and it has got beautiful imagery that is hard to synsathize but it is the history of a slave that comes to cuba on a boat and is marched along naked and then put into a crowded barb cone -- that is what they were called.
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these were not happy slave taverns. they were crowded quarters for people who lived pretty miserable life in the countryside. then marti says that he records the anguish people felt and at the end he records somebody hanging from a tree. a pause hear to say here is another difference between the u.s. and cuba. when we have the image of a black man hanging in the tree it is a lynching and that is what marti recorded while living in the united states. but in cuba, it was a way for slaves to end his life. there was a wonderful book by a historian called "dying to be free" and in fact many of the slaves were hanging from the tree in cuba were slaves who found some escape from the horrible life. so one difference. what does marti say here because
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i think that is important. he says he sees a man hanging from a tree and says as a boy i -- he doesn't say i. the boy himself swore at the foot of the dead man to avenge with his life the crime. what is important about that? it is a crime. this is a boy at a tender age. it is a crime and he pledges his life to correct that. the interest marti had in racial justice was from an early age on.
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he wanted to bring cubans together to make sure they could all work together in a harmonious cuba. he returned to cuba and on may 19th, 1895 he was killed in battle. marti was not trained as a soldier. he was there representing the future of cuba politically but his death is very dramatic because he was on a white horse and the spaniards thought that is great. they have been concerned about his influence but what happened when somebody who made such a difference and inspired so many. there is a wonderful metaphor,
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marti was not a tall man and short in stature but he grows and degree -- grows and after his death he became a martyr for the community. if you are in a cuban community you will see images of marti everywhere. books, statues, pictures, he is on the paper money in cuba. his image just everywhere. and so school children growing up hearing about this great patriot. but then there are these other dimensions. the fact he wrote this poetry that is translated and i cannot emphasis this enough but this is poetry among the most poplar poetry in the world. i am not exaggerating because of the popularity of the song the
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folk music is easily conveyed among countries in languages. it is in wester europe and indigenous languages. it has been translated incredibly. when i was traveling in cuba many years ago, i met up with a group of students from the united states that included two students from africa, kenya. they were traveling together and one of the kenyan students said hearing guanton mara and she said that is a poplar song from my country. and i said i am thrilled you like it. i always say that to say how wide the reach has been. he is a patriot and a poet who is well known and then he is this journalist who writes many, many volumes about the united
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states in the 1880s and 1890s. a historical chronicle past of conveying the energy and tensions of the united states at that time. >> join booktv live today beginning at 6:00 p.m. eastern from books and books bookstore for a panel state department's decision on books and the enjoys of reading. mitchell caplin joins us and the director of the creative writing program at the florida international university in miami and the author to 20 books. also, miami-based author menendez whose book are in cuba i was a german shepherd and the last war. we are opening up the phone lines and taking viewer comments on e-mail, twitter and facebook so you can be part of the conversation.


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