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INSTRUCTIONS: 
The purpose of this essay is to allow you to further engage with our assigned readings about the Wars of Independence and/or the War of 1898. Choose and answer ONE of 
the prompts below

FORMAT: 
The essay should be 
3-4 pages long, in Times New Roman 12-point font, double-spaced, and in Word.

SOURCES:
 For this essay you should use the textbook, the primary source, and any audiovisual
materials assigned in our class. 
Do not use any outside sources without consulting me

CITATION: 
Your essays must use proper in-text citation that demonstrates where your 
information is drawn from. Remember that you need to use citation 
even if you are not using a 
direct quote. 
For example, if you are paraphrasing a section of the textbook, you should still 
include an in-text citation. When in doubt, provide citation.
You may use any style of citation you are most familiar with – such as MLA, APA or Chicago 
style – as long as you use it consistently throughout the paper. 

PLAGIARISM: 
Plagiarism is defined as “[t]he adoption or reproduction of ideas or words or 
statements of another person as one’s own without acknowledgment.” This would include, for 
example, copying or substantially restating the published, unpublished, or on-line work of 
another person without appropriate attribution. Plagiarism can include insufficient paraphrasing, even if the source is attributed. For the purpose of this class, I will use an “eight word rule,” meaning that if eight consecutive verbatim words are taken from a text without direct quotes, I will consider that to be insufficient paraphrasing.

PROMPT: Racial Ideas and The War of 1898
Most Americans learn about the War of 1898 (also known as the Spanish-American War) from
the US perspective. School curriculums usually focus on the role of the “yellow” press in 
declaring war, the mysterious explosion of the battleship Maine, and the debates that occurred 
in the US congress about whether or not the US should become an imperialist nation. 
This essay assignment asks you to think about the War of 1898 from a different angle. How 
did ideas about race figure in the war? As we have discussed, Cuban patriots like José Martí 
wanted the new Cuban nation to embrace racial equality. Both white and Afro-Cuban patriots 
fought for the patriot cause. In the United States, the idea of race also played a role, especially 
in how the United States saw itself as uplifting non-white peoples through its intervention. 
For this essay you should draw on our textbook, the film clips, the essay about Jose Marti, and 
political cartoons we viewed in class (also available on Classes) to give specific examples of 
how you see ideas of race influencing the War of 1898. 

Sources (please note that this option requires one very short additional essay): 
Thomas C. Wright, Latin America since Independence: Two Centuries of Continuity 
and Change Rowman & Littlefield, 2017. 
Dionisio Poey Baro, “Race’ and Anti-Racism in José Marti’s ‘Mi Raza,’” Contributions in Black Studies, vol 12, 1994 (available on Classes)
Documentary film “Empire of Dreams” (link available on Classes)
Documentary film “Black in Latin America: Cuba, the Next Revolution” (link 
available on Classes)

1902 political cartoon.

The caption reads, “I’ll give you one teaspoonful; more might make you sick.”

INSTRUCTIONS:

The purpose of this essay is to allow you to further engage with our assigned readings about the Wars of Independence and/or the War of 1898. Choose and answer ONE of
the prompts below

FORMAT:

The essay should be
3-4 pages long, in Times New Roman 12-point font, double-spaced, and in Word.

SOURCES:

For this essay you should use the textbook, the primary source, and any audiovisual
materials assigned in our class.
Do not use any outside sources without consulting me

CITATION:

Your essays must use proper in-text citation that demonstrates where your
information is drawn from. Remember that you need to use citation
even if you are not using a
direct quote.
For example, if you are paraphrasing a section of the textbook, you should still
include an in-text citation. When in doubt, provide citation.
You may use any style of citation you are most familiar with – such as MLA, APA or Chicago
style – as long as you use it consistently throughout the paper.

PLAGIARISM:

Plagiarism is defined as “[t]he adoption or reproduction of ideas or words or
statements of another person as one’s own without acknowledgment.” This would include, for
example, copying or substantially restating the published, unpublished, or on-line work of
another person without appropriate attribution. Plagiarism can include insufficient paraphrasing, even if the source is attributed. For the purpose of this class, I will use an “eight word rule,” meaning that if eight consecutive verbatim words are taken from a text without direct quotes, I will consider that to be insufficient paraphrasing.

PROMPT: Racial Ideas and The War of 1898

Most Americans learn about the War of 1898 (also known as the Spanish-American War) from
the US perspective. School curriculums usually focus on the role of the “yellow” press in
declaring war, the mysterious explosion of the battleship Maine, and the debates that occurred
in the US congress about whether or not the US should become an imperialist nation.
This essay assignment asks you to think about the War of 1898 from a different angle. How
did ideas about race figure in the war? As we have discussed, Cuban patriots like José Martí
wanted the new Cuban nation to embrace racial equality. Both white and Afro-Cuban patriots
fought for the patriot cause. In the United States, the idea of race also played a role, especially
in how the United States saw itself as uplifting non-white peoples through its intervention.
For this essay you should draw on our textbook, the film clips, the essay about Jose Marti, and
political cartoons we viewed in class (also available on Classes) to give specific examples of
how you see ideas of race influencing the War of 1898.

Sources
(please note that this option requires one very short additional essay):
· Thomas C. Wright, Latin America since Independence: Two Centuries of Continuity
and Change Rowman & Littlefield, 2017.
· Dionisio Poey Baro, “Race’ and Anti-Racism in José Marti’s ‘Mi Raza,’” Contributions in Black Studies, vol 12, 1994 (available on Classes)
· Documentary film “Empire of Dreams” (link available on Classes)
· Documentary film “Black in Latin America: Cuba, the Next Revolution” (link
available on Classes)

An 1898 political cartoon. The caption reads, “Most extraordinary.”

1902 political cartoon.

The caption reads, “Yo watch me chile, mebbe yo hab a chance yosef some day.”

HIS 134: Modern Latin
America

The War of 1898 and the Rise of the US

XM 4.1

Why did the Caribbean islands
(except Haiti) not go through wars of
independence at the same time as
the rest of the Latin American
mainland (e.g. Mexico, Venezuela)
from 1810-1825?

Independence happened very
differently in the Caribbean

• Haitian Revolution (1791-1804) – a massive war for freedom from
slavery and then independence from France. The second independent
nation in the Western Hemisphere, after the US

• Dominican Republic – occupied by Haiti for 22 years (1822-1844) to
prevent reinstatement of European Empire and slavery. Dominicans
became independent in 1844 from Haiti. Briefly reoccupied by Spain
1861-1865. Independent from 1865 onward.

• Puerto Rico – part of Spanish empire until 1898. Became a US
territory in 1898 as result of the War of 1898.

• Most English islands remained part of the UK until the 1960s

Dates of independence in Caribbean
basin

Cuban independence occurred much later than
continental Latin America (1898). What difference
do you think that would make for the course or
outcome of the war?

Cuban Wars of Independence from Spain took place in 3
stages. By the time of the final stage, the US was
becoming a much stronger player in the Western
Hemisphere

• 1868-78 – the “10 years war.” Starts with the “Grito de Yara” (a call to
arms) in eastern Cuba

• 1879-80 – the “Little War”

• 1895-98 – final War of Independence

• The last war ended with US intervention in 1898

Role of race & slavery in Cuban
independence movement

• Cuba had many slaves on sugar plantations

• First independence leaders proposed a gradual form of abolition of
slavery

• But soon declared that any slaves who joined them to fight would be
freed

• Soon many slaves are fleeing to rebel lines, hoping to fight & win
freedom

Role of race & slavery

• Over time, the Cuban rebels fighting Spain became more and
more diverse

• In 1868, slavery was still legal in Cuba

• Initial Cuban rebels only demanded Independence from Spain,
with some calls for gradual abolition

• But over time, they began to call for immediate abolition as well.

Role of race & slavery
• Also, the Cuban troops were racially integrated

• Not just the common soldiers
• Officers and generals were also black. They presided over

mixed-race troops (black, white and mulato rebel soldiers)

• Spain depicted it as a struggle for black supremacy to
try to scare white Cubans

• But Spain eventually decreed gradual abolition in 1878
(free womb law)

Spanish cartoon against the Cuban war of
Independence. The caption reads, “How the whites
would look in Cuba if the blacks won.”

Cuba’s Final War of Independence

• Period of 1879-1895 peaceful, but pro-Independence forces
continued to organize

• Race was becoming a more central issue for them

• Pro-Independence writers now start to praise the racially-
integrated rebel troops

• Start to describe a future Independent Cuban nation as a
racial brotherhood

• Call for racial unity among patriots

Independence Leaders & Race

Jose Marti was important leader
who argued for a racially-
inclusive future nation:

“There can be no racism in Cuba
because there are no races.”

“Cuban is more than black, more
than mulato, more than white.”

US Enters the Cuban War for
Independence against Spain

• US government uses accidental explosion of the
boat Maine as justification to enter the war against
Spain. Claim it is Spanish sabotage.

• Slogan: “Remember the Maine! To Hell with
Spain!”

• “Yellow” journalism (tabloid newspapers)
demand war with Spain, stir up public pro-war
sentiment

Explosion of the USS Maine, 1898

US Enters the Cuban War for
Independence against Spain

1898: “Spanish-American War” begins
• US easily defeats Spain
• US occupies Cuba militarily from 1898-1902, and

exercises huge influence on Cuba through the 1930s
• US also takes over other Spanish colonies:

Philippines (which got Independence in 1950) and
Puerto Rico (a US territory to the present)

• In retrospect, we can see it as the beginning of a
new era of US imperialism in the Caribbean
region (1900-1930)

Should we
consider the US to
be “an empire” in
this period? Why
or why not?

How do you think
Latin Americans
interpreted the
US increasing
involvement in
the region in the
second half of the
19th century?

Many people in Latin America and the Caribbean saw
the US as an imperialist aggressor and feared its
expansion

Primary documents on US foreign
policy

Monroe Document (1823)

• How do you interpret this document?

Platt Amendment (1901):

• How do you interpret this document?

Roosevelt Corollary:

• How does this describe the role of the US in the Western Hemisphere?

• How do you compare it to the Monroe Doctrine (1823)? How does it
relate to the Platt Amendment?

US Newspaper Political
Cartoons about 1898
Take a few minutes to examine the political
cartoons taped on the wall. How would you
characterize these cartoons? What is their
message?

They are also available in the section of Primary
Documents on our Classes page

Review Essay #1 Assignment
Sheet (Classes)

Political
cartoon,
Boston
Globe,
1898

Slide 1
Slide 2
Slide 3
Independence happened very differently in the Caribbean
Dates of independence in Caribbean basin
Slide 6
Slide 7
Role of race & slavery in Cuban independence movement
Role of race & slavery
Role of race & slavery
Slide 11
Cuba’s Final War of Independence
Independence Leaders & Race
Slide 14
US Enters the Cuban War for Independence against Spain
Explosion of the USS Maine, 1898
US Enters the Cuban War for Independence against Spain
Slide 18
Slide 19
Slide 20
Primary documents on US foreign policy
US Newspaper Political Cartoons about 1898
Review Essay #1 Assignment Sheet (Classes)
Political cartoon, Boston Globe, 1898

1902 political cartoon.

The caption reads, “I’ll give you one teaspoonful; more might make you sick.”

1901 Political Cartoon. The caption reads, “Miss Cuba receives an invitation.”

An 1898 political cartoon. The caption reads, “Most extraordinary.”

An 1898 political cartoon. The caption reads, “Most extraordinary.”

1905 political cartoon.

The caption reads “To think that bad boy came near being your brother.”

The “Monroe Doctrine” (December 1823)

…[T]he American continents, by the free and independent condition which they have assumed and
maintain, are henceforth not to be considered as subjects for future colonization by any European power.

. . . In the wars of the European powers in matters relating to themselves we have never taken any part,
nor does it comport with our policy so to do. … It is only when our rights are invaded or seriously
menaced that we … make preparation for our defense. With the movements in this hemisphere we are of
necessity more immediately connected…

… With the existing colonies or dependencies of any European power [in the Western hemisphere] we
have not interfered and shall not interfere, but with the Governments who have declared their
independence and … whose independence we have… acknowledged, we could not view any interposition
for the purpose of oppressing them, or controlling in any other manner their destiny, by any European
power in any other light than as the manifestation of an unfriendly disposition toward the United States.

The Platt Amendment, 19011

This document was passed by the US Congress while US troops were in Cuba after the end of the War of
1898. It listed conditions that the US demanded be met before it would withdraw its troops.

I. That the government of Cuba shall never enter into any treaty or other compact with any foreign power
or powers which will impair or tend to impair the independence of Cuba, nor in any manner authorize or
permit any foreign … powers to obtain by colonization or for military or naval purposes or otherwise…
control over any portion of said island.

II. That said government shall not assume or contract any [excessive] public debt…

III. That the government of Cuba consents that the United States may exercise the right to intervene for
the preservation of Cuban independence, the maintenance of a government adequate for the protection of
life, property, and individual liberty, and for discharging the obligations with respect to Cuba imposed by
the treaty of Paris.…

V. That the government of Cuba will execute, and as far as necessary extend, the plans already devised or
other plans to be mutually agreed upon, for the sanitation of the cities of the island, to the end that a
recurrence of epidemic and infectious diseases may be prevented, thereby assuring protection to the
people and commerce of Cuba, as well as to the commerce of the southern ports of the United States and
the people residing therein.

VI. That the Isle of Pines shall be omitted from the proposed constitutional boundaries of Cuba, the title
thereto being left to future adjustment by treaty.

VII. That to enable the United States to maintain the independence of Cuba, and to protect the people
thereof, as well as for its own defense, the government of Cuba will sell or lease to the United States
lands necessary for coaling or naval stations…

VIII. That by way of further assurance the government of Cuba will embody the foregoing provisions in a
permanent treaty with the United States.

1https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Platt_Amendment#:~:text=On%20March%202%2C%201901%2C%20the,treaty
%20accepting%20these%20seven%20conditions.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isla_de_la_Juventud

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treaty_of_Paris_(1898)

“Roosevelt Corollary (to the Monroe Doctrine)”
From speech made by President Theodore Roosevelt to Congress,

December 6, 1904 (Excerpt)

… It is not true that the United States feels any land hunger or entertains any projects [i.e. expansionist
projects] as regards the other nations of the Western Hemisphere save such as are for their welfare. All
that this country desires is to see the neighboring countries stable, orderly, and prosperous. Any country
whose people conduct themselves well can count upon our hearty friendship. If a nation shows that it
knows how to act with reasonable efficiency and decency in social and political matters, if it keeps order
and pays its obligations, it need fear no interference from the United States. Chronic wrongdoing, or an
impotence which results in a general loosening of the ties of civilized society, may in America, as
elsewhere, ultimately require intervention by some civilized nation, and in the Western Hemisphere the
adherence of the United States to the Monroe Doctrine may force the United States, however reluctantly,
in flagrant cases of such wrongdoing or impotence, to the exercise of an international police power.

If every country washed by the Caribbean Sea would show the progress in stable and just civilization
which with the aid of the Platt Amendment Cuba has shown since our troops left the island, and which so
many of the republics in both Americas are constantly and brilliantly showing, all question of interference
by this Nation with their affairs would be at an end.

Our interests and those of our southern neighbors are in reality identical. They have great natural riches,
and if within their borders the reign of law and justice obtains, prosperity is sure to come to them. While
they thus obey the primary laws of civilized society they may rest assured that they will be treated by us
in a spirit of cordial and helpful sympathy. We would interfere with them only in the last resort, and then
only if it became evident that their inability or unwillingness to do justice at home and abroad had
violated the rights of the United States or had invited foreign aggression to the detriment of the entire
body of American nations. It is a mere truism to say that every nation, whether in America or anywhere
else, which desires to maintain its freedom, its independence, must ultimately realize that the right of such
independence cannot be separated from the responsibility of making good use of it. …

Contributions in Black Studies
A Journal of African and Afro-American Studies

Volume 12 Ethnicity, Gender, Culture, & Cuba
(Special Section)

Article 6

1994

“Race” and Anti-Racism in Jose Marti’s “Mi Raza”
Dionisio Poey Baro
Centro de Estudios Martianos, Havana

Follow this and additional works at: https://scholarworks.umass.edu/cibs

This Article is brought to you for free and open access by the Afro-American Studies at [email protected] Amherst. It has been accepted for
inclusion in Contributions in Black Studies by an authorized editor of [email protected] Amherst. For more information, please contact
[email protected]

Recommended Citation
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Available at: https://scholarworks.umass.edu/cibs/vol12/iss1/6

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mailto:[email protected]

Dionisio Poey Baro

,
“RACE” AND ANTI-RACISM IN JOSE

MARTI’S “MI RAZA”*

O N APRIL 16,1893, Jose Marti’s “Mi raza,” appeared in the newspaper Patria;this issue also listed the results of the April 10th elections in which Marti wasunanimously re-elected as a national delegate. This work, like Marti’s other
literature, is infused with an anti-racism shaped by his life experiences: listening as a
young child to talk about the creation of man in God’s image; seeing at the age of nine
the hanging of a slave; knowing first-hand the vicissitudes of clandestine human cargo
taken through inhospitable places, hidden from public view in the sugar plantations;
working alongside and being lashed with slaves in the quarries.

Marti texts, such as “Mi Raza,” dealing with race in Cuba are numerous. Most
appeared during the preparatory stages of the 19th century war of independence from
Spain. In almost all of his political writings and speeches there are passages intended to
demonstrate that in the future republic there would be no place for racial discrimination
and that there would be a prevailing spirit of unity, based in the purest and most essential
democratic tendencies from the liberation war. He never ceases to repeat that the anti-
segregationist measures approved by the Spanish government expressed their fear of the
revolution, and their attempts to destabilize it by undermining its social base.

“Mi raza” synthesizes many of the subjects which Marti had discussed in his
previous works. The ideas are presented with such depth and intensity that the piece can
be considered his most developed work on interracial relations. “Mi Raza” entails a
series of original proposals for a solution to racism, as well as an analysis of society in
that era. Jose Marti proclaims a spiritual identity shared by all people, repudiating
arguments for racial superiority. For Marti, emphasizing the values of race is only
justifiable in order to demonstrate, contrary to affirmations made in his time, that there
is absolutely no evidence of the incapacity of a Black person to develop fully.

Believing that transculturation would eliminate racial conflict in Cuba, he
writes “El negro que se aisla provoca aislarse al blanco” [“The black person that isolates
him or herself provokes the white person to do likewise”] and vice-versa. According to
Marti, mestizo identity is the most effective means of perfecting the compactness of
Cuban ethnicity. “Deben mezclarse~asrazas” [“Races should be mixed”], wrote Marti
as a final solution to the problem in his personal notes entitled “Para las escenas” [“For
the scenes”].1 This, for him, meant more than a call to action – since he also said “cada
cual sera libre en 10 sagrado de la casa”2 [“everyone will be free in the sacredness of the

“Editor’s note: translation by Isabel Valiela.

CONTRIBUTIONS IN BLACK STUDIES, 12 (1994),55-61
1

Poey Baro: “Race” and Anti-Racism in Jose Marti’s “Mi Raza”

Published by [email protected] Amherst, 1994

56 Dionisio Poey Bar6
home”]. Rather, it was the sincere recognition of a truth which he always saw developing
in Cuba, one which had to increase as prejudices subsided. Above all, he was convinced
that “mestizaje” was more than a voluntary option; it was a natural and undetainable
process which would mark the future of the country. He describes the rich fruit from that
amalgam: “la masa pujante, -la masa mestiza, habil y conmovedora del pais -la masa
inteligente y creadora de blancos y negros”3 [“the strong race, the mestizo masses,
talented and movers of the nation, the intelligent and creative masses of Whites and
Blacks”] in his posthumous letter to Manuel Mercado.

The mix of cultures, habits, food, gestures, and religions provides a new
dimension as the life experiences of different peoples are united. The child of that
diversity is a universal being. (“EI cubano caminacomo yoruba” [“The Cuban walks like
a Yoruba”], noticed an astonished Wole Soyinka in one of his trips to Cuba). In the
paragraphs of “Mi Raza” one perceives a subtle current of indignation at the web of
conventionalisms, traditions, economic interests, and psychological factors which
constitute as well as maintain racial prejudices.

After independence, Cuban Blacks and Mulattos were theoretically offered the
recognition of equality acquired in the war of independence and mandated in the first
Mambisa constitution. Marti could not imagine that a meticulously planned social
project such as his could be diverted from its course. Perceiving neither official
discriminations in the republic nor the need for the formation of parties based on skin
color, Marti optimistically writes:

la semejanza de los caracteres, superior como factor de uni6n a las
relaciones intemas de un color de hombres graduado, y en sus
grados a veces opuesto, decide 0 impera en la formaci6n de los
partidos. La afinidad de los caracteres es mas poderosa entre los
hombres que la afinidad del color. … Los hombres de pompa e
interes se iran de un lado blancos 0 negros; y los hombres generosos
y deinteresados, se iran de otro. 4

[the similarity of character, superior as a unifying factor in the
internal relations of men of varying, and sometimes opposite color,
decides or dominates the formation of parties. The affinity of
character is more powerful among men than the affinity of color..
. . Men of pomp and self-interest will go one way whether they are
White or Black; and generous and unselfish men will go the other
way.]

Marti’s optimism serves as a recurrent echo:

En Cuba no habra nunca guerra de razas. La Republica no se puede
volver atras; y la Republica, desde el dia unico de redenci6n del
negro en Cuba, desde la primera constituci6n de la independencia
ell 0 de abril en Guaimaro, no habl6 nunca de blancos ni de negros.
Los derechos publicos concedidos ya de pura astucia por el gobiemo
espafiol e iniciados en las costumbres antes de la independencia de

2

Contributions in Black Studies, Vol. 12 [1994], Art. 6

https://scholarworks.umass.edu/cibs/vol12/iss1/6

“Race” and Anti-Racism in Jose MartI 57
la Isla, no podnm ser negados, ni por el espafiol que los mantendni
mientras aliente en Cuba, para seguir dividiendo al cubano negro
del cubano blanco, ni por la independencia, que no podni negar en
la libertad los derechos que el espafiol reconoci6 en la servidumbre.5

[In Cuba there will never be a race war. The Republic cannot go
backwards; and the Republic, since the only day of redemption of
Blacks in Cuba, since the first constitution of independence on
April I0 in Guaimaro, never spoke of Whites or Blacks. The public
rights conceded out of pure cunning by the Spanish government
and initiated in customs that existed prior to the independence of the
Island, cannot be denied, neither by the Spaniard that that will
maintain them while encouraged in Cuba, in order to continue
dividing the Black Cuban from the White Cuban, nor by indepen-
dence, which cannot deny in liberty the rights that the Spaniard
recognized in servitude.]

The economic and social transformations that would occur in the Cuba
projected by Marti would theoretically improve living conditions for the popular masses
and the most discriminated groups, which would be an important step in the elimination
of racism. Mass access to education and culture, exercised with a democratic and just
spirit, would contribute to human elevation and help eliminate the prejudices impeding
full social development.

However, the leadership of the principal parties after independence expressed
no real interest in resolving the conflicts inherited from slavery. Blacks and Mestizos
were only taken into account as unavoidable public figures for the purpose of giving
prestige to a party and attracting clientele [such were the cases ofJuan Gualberto G6mez,
Martin Morua Delgado], and above all to feed electoral appetites with their frustrated
votes. In the state apparatus there was no principal position for discriminated people of
color. Symbolic of those times, then president Tomas Estrada Palma ridiculed the
Mambi general Quintin Banderas.6 As a response to the racism of the ruling elite, the
“Partido Independiente de Color” (PIC) [“Party of the Independentists of Color”] was
formed. Attacked from the beginning by other parties, the parliament, the tribunals, and
the press, the PIC was compelled to carry out an armed protest in 1912. Although some
perceive this as potentially inciting a racial war, paradoxically, the PIC was the only
party at the time that called for a solution to racial conflicts and for equal rights. The
repression of this party and the Black and Meztizo populations confirmed that the
structures of the Republic would never tolerate demands for equal justice.

In pursuit of that equality, Marti rejected the positions sustained by supporters
of national unity who opposed racial discrimination, yet were motivated by a certain
paternalism towards Blacks. Believing Black Cubans to be inferior and insisting on the
idea that “habia que elevar al negro” [“Blacks had to be elevated”], some progressive
Cubans participated in charity and education projects to improve the living conditions
of that social sector. Critical of these assumptions Jose Marti writes:

3

Poey Baro: “Race” and Anti-Racism in Jose Marti’s “Mi Raza”

Published by [email protected] Amherst, 1994

58 Dionisio Poey Bar6
El hombre de color en Cuba es ya ente de plena raz6n que lee en su
libro y se conoce la medida de la cintura; sin que necesite que del
cielo blanco Ie caigael mamiculto … sino, que los cubanos blancos,
… den, en la verdad de las costumbres, … el ejemplo de la igualdad
que ense: a la naturaleza, confirma la vida virtuosa e inteligente del
cubano de color y s610 esta hoy de disfraz en las falsas leyes…. En
Cuba no hay que elevar al negro: que a prorrata, valgan verdades,
tanto blanco necesita elevaci6n como negros, pudiesen necesitarla.
En Cuba, por humanidad y previsi6n, hay que ser justo.7

[The person ofcolor in Cuba is already a fully rational human being
that reads his book and knows his waist measure; with no need for
the cultured manna to falls from the White sky rather, let the
White Cubans, … give, in the truth of customs, the example of
equality that nature teaches, confirms the virtuous and intelligent
life of the Cuban of color and which is disguised today in false
laws…. In Cuba the Black person does not have to be elevated;
proportionately, to tell the truth, as many Whites need elevation as
Blacks could need it. In Cuba, out of humanity and foresight, one
must be just.]

Understanding that paternalism was rooted in racism, he further noted: “y aun hay quien
crea de buena fe al negro incapaz de la inteligencia y corazon del blanco”g [“and there
are still those who in good faith still believe that Blacks are incapable of the intelligence
and heart of Whites”]. Rather than focus on the alleged lack of culture of the dark skin
sector, Marti viewed it as necessary to reeducate everyone to participate fully in a free
and decolonized country, whether they were born in a wealthy house or in a slave
barracks. If the deficiencies of the slave fall entirely upon the master, those who preach
the “elevation of the Black” also need reeducation.

Marti wrote “Mi raza” to demystify not only the ideas of superior and inferior
“races,” but the very concept of “race.” For instance his noteworthy phrases on race
include the statement that: “El hombre no tiene ningun derecho especial porque
pertenezca a una raza u otra: digase hombre, y ya se dicen todos los derechos.”9 [“Man
has no special right based on his belonging to one race or another: say man, and you
already say all rights.”] He as well asserted: “Hombre es mas que blanco, mas que
mulato, mas que negro.”10 [“Man is more than White, more than Mulatto, more than
Black.”] Finally, Marti warned: ”Todo 10 que divide a los hombres, todo 10 que los
especifica, aparta 0 acorrala, es un pecado contra la humanidad.,,1J [“Everything that
divides men, everything that specifies, sets them apart, or comers them, is a sin against
humanity.”]

These universal anti-racist principles expressed 100 years ago are reflected in
international law treaties such as the United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of
All Forms ofRacial Discrimination [1963] which maintains that “All doctrine of racial
differentiation or superiority is scientifically false, morally condemned, socially unjust,
and dangerous, and nothing justifies it either in theory or practice. “12 The legacy of Jose

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“Race” and Anti-Racism in Jose MartI 59
Marti as an anti-racist writer is evident in the immense cultural production of Cuban
scholar Fernando Ortiz who writes:

En cada poblaci6n humana hay una amplia diversidad genetica. No
existe en la especie humana una raza pura, por 10 menos en el
sentido de poblaci6n geneticamente homogenea. 13

[In every human population there is a broad genetic diversity. In the
human species a pure race does not exist, at least in the sense of a
population that is genetically homogeneous.]

In El engafio de las razas [The Race DeceptionJ, Ortiz provides scientific tools
for those interested in combating racial prejudice, continuing the labor of illumination
begun by Marti. With regard to the often manipulated idea of racial differences, the
author, with his own arguments and aided by modern findings in the social sciences,
denies the very existence of race and goes forward with his definition of “mestizaje”:

Todo individuo humano, por la forzosa disparidad y conjunci6n de
sus genes progenitores, es en rigor un mestizo. Y cuantos mas
cruzamientos se hayan dado por las vias ancestrales de donde un
individuo desciende, mas varios podrlin ser los genes que este haya
tenido a su disposici6n en el acervo de sus antepasados para formar
su personalidad. ASI los cruces del mestizaje aumentan a medida
que se suceden las generaciones y, por tanto, son mas varios los que
en esta intervienen. EI homo sapiens … es la mas mestiza de todas
las criaturas. 14

[Every human individual, because of the strong disparity and the
union of ancestral genes, is strictly speaking a mestizo. And the
more ancestral crossings there have been, the more varied could be
the genes that form his personality. Thus, the crossings of mestizaje
increase with succeeding generations, and the genes that intervene
become increasingly varied. The homo sapiens is the most mestizo
of all creatures.]

Ortiz analyzes homogenetic and polygenetic theories pertaining to human origins. IS At
the center of the anti-racist thinking of Marti exists the homo- or monogeneity of”races.”
There is, according to Marti, no natural barrier that sets people against each other.
Extreme racial barriers are socially constructed by deformed forces. Each person is part
of nature which extends over everything in an infinite process of perfection. Therefore
all action to liberate and develop the human being is also an action to re-establish
harmony and balance in nature. People are not seen by Marti as autonomous individuals,
but rather as individuals related to others through social ties:

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Poey Baro: “Race” and Anti-Racism in Jose Marti’s “Mi Raza”

Published by [email protected] Amherst, 1994

60 Dionisio Poey Bar6
Observando a los hombres se ve que no es cada uno una entidad
definitivamente aislada y con un cankterexclusivo, que venga a ser
una combinaci6n natural original de los elementos humanos
comunes; sino un tipo de una de las varias especies en que los
hombres se dividen, segun exista en ellos dominantes el amor de sf,
o no exista, 0 coexista con el amor a los demas, si segun, de los
accidentes usuales que influyen en los hombres, les haya tocado
vivir entre algunos determinados que en personas de cierta manera
constituidas han de producir una conocida impresi6n cierta.

[BYobserving men one can see that each one is not an isolated entity
with an exclusive character, a natural and original combination of
common human elements; rather, he is one type of the various
species in which men divide themselves, depending on how domi-
nant is their self-love, if it does not exist, or if it co-exists with love
for others, if accordingly, of the usual accidents that influence men,
they happen to live in determining factors that in people who are
constituted in a particular manner will produce a well known true
impression.]

Marti considered the human individual to be a unity of matter and spirit, and
at the same time a collective of closely related individuals, with all of one nature. Such
a being has no other path but that of union; such a being transcends all racial division,
Marti surmised:

Siendo una en todos los hombres la naturaleza humana, y uno
siempre en torno de ellos el resto de la naturaleza en que el hombre
influye, y que influye en el, unos han de ser los actos humanos cada
vez que el mismo grupo de datos, el mismo estado nacional, la
rnisma penuria econ6mica, la misma irregularidad poiftica, la
rnisma concurrencia en el espfritu de elementos semejantes se
presenten. 16

[Given the fact that there is one human nature in all men, and one
nature which surrounds them and in which they exert influence, and
which, in turn, influences them, human acts will also be one each
time that the same group of facts, the same national state, the same
economic penury, the same political irregularity, the same concur-
rence in the spirit of similar elements present themselves.]

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“Race” and Anti-Racism in Jose Marti 61
NOTES
1 Jose Marti: “Para las Escenas,” in Anuario del Centro de Estudios Martfanos No.1 (La Habana:

Centro de Estudios Martianos, 1978).
2 Jose Marti, Obras Completas, Havana, Editorial de Ciencias Sociales, 1975, vol.2, 300. (The

following references all refer to this edition and only the volume and page number will be
indicated.)

3 Ibid., vol. 2: 168.
4 Ibid., vol.2: 299.
5 Marti, Obras Completas, vol.2: 300.
6 When the famous and impoverished general, a prominent figure in the wars of independence

asked the President of the Republic for employment, the latter offered him a position as a
mailman and 5 pesos as financial assistance.

7 Ibid., vol. 2: 108-109.
8 Ibid., vol. 2: 298.
9 Ibid., vol. 2: 298.
10 Ibid., vol. 2: 299.
11 Ibid., vol. 2: 298.
12 United Nations: Declaration on the Elimination ofAll Forms ofRacial Discrimination, cited

in Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, Information Bulletin, No. 12.
(Geneva: Human Rights Center, 1991). (Approved by the General Assembly of the United
Nations in 1963).

13 Fernando Ortiz, El engafio de las razas (La Habana: Editorial de Ciencias Sociales, 1975), 10.
14 Ibid., 319, 324.
15 Some monogenists tend to conclude that a pure racial type is not possible. Some polygenists

see as achievable a pure race in which all the diverse “races” unite to create a new type of race,
some polygenists wait patiently for the coming of that future race, perhaps revealing that the
constant mixing does not produce a new homogenous type but rather a mixed being infinitely
adding more varied elements than those of their progenitors. Still others utilize polygenism
rationalize conquest and colonial expansion, considering themselves different from their
origins and superior to the ones they dominated.

16 Marti, Obras Completas, vol. 15:395-396.

7

Poey Baro: “Race” and Anti-Racism in Jose Marti’s “Mi Raza”

Published by [email protected] Amherst, 1994

Contributions in Black Studies
A Journal of African and Afro-American Studies
1994

“Race” and Anti-Racism in Jose Marti’s “Mi Raza”
Dionisio Poey Baro
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