This essay on Cuba's national poet, José Martí, written originally in the early 1960s for a non-Cuban audience in the wake of the victory of the Cuban Revolution, acquires a new context with the neo-imperialism of the Bush regime and the recent resurgence of the Latin American Left. Martí was one of the first thinkers of revolutionary anticolonial struggle, and in that sense it is legitimate to see him as the main ideological inspiration of the Cuban Revolution itself some sixty years after his death. Yet Martí's own relation to Marx—his near contemporary—and socialism was ambiguous. Martí's work cannot be contained within the formula of bourgeois-democratic nationalism. Rather, as in the case of other thinker/poet/activists of the periphery, who form his legitimate “family,” he represents the case of a maximum possible radicalism, at once aesthetic and political, which responds directly to the concrete character of Cuban society in his time, the struggle against Spanish imperialism, then in decline, and a U.S. imperialism in ascendancy, and the concrete evolution of the Cuban independence movement, more and more obliged to rely on the popular classes. Martí developed the key concept of a multiracial and multicultural “our America” as a counterweight to the menace of U.S. hegemony in the region, on the one hand, and Latin American development schemes based on the imposition of European or North American models, on the other. While he did not himself embrace socialism, the character of both his thought and political goals suggests an affinity with the socialist character assumed by the Cuban Revolution.

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