This book will appeal especially to two groups of readers: those interested in the history of the Cuban revolution and José Martí, and those interested in the Cuban colonies of Key West and Tampa in the later nineteenth century. In the latter case, this book is particularly helpful in conjunction with The Immigrant World of Y bor City by Gary Mormino and George Pozzetta. C. Neale Ronning has been attentive to various aspects of Martí bibliography, but we do find a few omissions, like the Índice universal de la obra de Martí (1971) of Carlos Ripoll.
In his first chapter, “The Odyssey of Martí,” the author gives us a succinct and valuable biography of Martí and situates him in the context of the continual struggle for Cuban independence in the second half of the nineteenth century. Unfortunately for the casual reader, he ends the study with Martí’s death in 1895. A brief epilogue for the ensuing three years would have been a welcome coda, bringing the Cuban drama to final curtain.
The appendix, “Documentary Highlights,” is especially useful. In English translation these include the original text of a speech by Martí in Key West (12/25/91) and accounts or extracts of three others. Also included are the minutes of a meeting chaired by Martí in Key West, an anonymous handbill distributed there for the purpose of inviting Martí, two of his newspaper essays, and a letter written in Key West by Martí in English. Ripoll lists other documents as well, providing a broad spectrum that helps elucidate Martí’s literary and rhetorical thought as well as his style and personality. The book is essential for any library or scholar specializing in any of the areas mentioned above.