02/09/12 - AllAfrica.com - Revolutionary Legacies, José Martí
Although separated by expanses of sea waters, Zimbabwe's relations with
the Republic of Cuba date back centuries, and not since Zimbabwe's
liberation struggle as most of us would want to think. It is a
relationship, which is not just enhanced by the leaderships of President
Mugabe and his Cuban counterparts, former president Fidel Castro and
incumbent president Raul Castro.
More than one and half centuries ago, the two nations' destiny was not
only carved out, but it became a historical narrative with more
similarities than differences. Here are a few examples of how I see it:
January 28 was a special day for the people of Cuba as they celebrated the
53rd anniversary of the triumph of the Cuban Revolution under the
leadership of Fidel Castro Ruz and, the 159th anniversary of the birth of
Cuba and Latin America's national hero, freedom fighter, intellectual,
unifier and "apostle" of the revolution who also shaped its ideological
framework - José Martí.
He left a legacy which has withstood the test of time for Cuba's
independence was his passion from a young age. As a liberator, he did not
want Latin America to live on borrowed ideas and principles as he believed
that they "needed to know the reality of their own history and
literature." He led by example.
The song "Guantanamera" (a girl from Guantanamo), which is the hallmark of
Cuban patriotism is attributed to Martí's "Versos Sencillos" (Simple
Then, on January 1, 1959, Fidel Castro and his comrades entered Cuba, the
country they had freed from the dictatorship of the Fulgencio Batista
This was more than a century after Martí's triumph over Spanish
colonialism and Fidel is reported as having said, "I am Fidel Castro and,
we have come to liberate Cuba."
Martí was born in Havana, Cuba on January 28, 1853 and died on May 19,
1895. He is revered for defeating Spanish colonialism, while Castro's
leadership is held in high esteem for keeping that revolutionary flame
burning, despite the five-decade illegal sanction regime from the United
States of America and its allies.
The January 28 commemorations were a double celebration which enabled
Cubans in Zimbabwe - embassy personnel, members of the Cuban medical
brigade and the Association of Cuban Residents (ZICUMA) to reflect on the
bitter sweet road the two nations have traversed.
The Government of Zimbabwe and associations that represent Cuban interests
gave solidarity messages. These included the Zimbabwe-Cuba Friendship
Association (ZICUFA) and The Zimbabwean Committee for the Liberation of
the Cuban Five.
ZICUFA applauded the Cuban people for "remaining steadfast and resolute in
the defence of their hard earned freedom and sovereignty". Through the
presentations by Cuban ambassador Enrique López, the Medical Brigade,
ZICUMA, ZICUFA and Free the Five, it was evident that Cuba and Zimbabwe
share a common history (colonialism, liberation struggle and illegal
economic sanctions meant to derail their sovereignty.)
Ambassador Lopez said, "the annual activity is also dedicated to these
(Zimbabwean) organisations and their membership for their sustained and
combative support to the just causes of Cuba and Zimbabwe: the fight for
the lifting of the US blockade against Cuba, the Western sanctions against
Zimbabwe, for the freedom of the Five Cuban heroes unjustly imprisoned in
the USA for preventing terrorist attacks against Cuba and other countries,
including the United States of America, and for the defence of Cuba and
Zimbabwe's independence and sovereignty and the historical and everlasting
friendship between our two countries and peoples."
President of ZICUFA Cde Fananidzo Pesanai said Fidel Castro in his
reflections of 1853 summed up Martí's role: "Cuba was condemned to cease
to exist as a nation. José Martí was among the glorious legions of
patriots who through the second half of the 19th century fought against
the loathsome colonialism brandished by Spain for 300 years - a man of
ideas and action, a patriot, a poet, a natural hero - the eternal man
(hero) of Cuba."
"José Martí has not died. He lives mortally and eternally in the heroic
pages of Cuban history, he is with the Cuban people everyday. His words
illuminate the Cuban trail day and night, for example, 'Barricades of
ideas are worth more than barricades of stones'; it is better to die on
your feet, than to live on your knees", said Fidel.
José Martí died on May 19, 1895. Thus the Cuban freedom fighter was killed
in battle against Spanish colonialists three years after the British
settler colonialists had entered and colonised Zimbabwe.
Martí also died a year before the First Chimurenga in Zimbabwe was waged,
and three years before the hanging of Zimbabwe's revolutionaries in 1898 -
Mbuya Nehanda, Sekuru Kaguvi and others.
Cde Lovemore Gwati of the Free the Five also said Marti's thoughts and
deeds influenced generations of Cubans and other people and, they continue
to do so today.
"At 16 years of age, his editorials and poems were already being published
in local newspapers. In 1869 he got himself in serious trouble with the
colonial authorities when he wrote passionately in support of the rebels
who were fighting for the independence of Cuba and the freedom of the
Cuban slaves," he said.
The Zimbabwean equivalent is when national hero Vice President Simon
Muzenda got into serious trouble with Rhodesian authorities after reciting
Solomon Mutswairo's protest poem, "Oh, Nehanda Nyakasikana".
Cde Gwati added, "Martí was imprisoned with hard labour. Upon his release
after one year he was exiled to Spain where he studied law specialising in
This was typical of the settler colonialists' treatment of people who
stood up to them: arrests, illegal detentions, torture and banishments,
but actions which gave their victims opportunities to advance their
agendas, and exploit their potential. The majority of Zimbabwe's
liberators were educated this way.
Just like many illustrious heroes of Zimbabwe's liberation struggle, Martí
did not live to see Cuba's independence, however, his thoughts and vision
inspired and guided Cubans. Mbuya Nehanda, one of the key figures of the
First Chimurenga said something that became a rallying point for fighting
colonialism: "My bones will rise again" (Mapfupa angu achamuka).
Cde Gwati added that one hundred years after José Martí's birth, Fidel
Castro in his self-defence under trial for the assault on the Moncada
Garrision in 1953 when asked who the mastermind of the assault was,
"replied without vacillation that it was José Martí".
ZICUFA and Free the Five pledged their continued solidarity to the
government and people of Cuba.
"In doing so, we are conscious of the unjust, continued incarceration of
five Cuban compatriots in the USA . . . We therefore demand the immediate
and unconditional release of the Cuban Five. The Zimbabwe Committee for
the Liberation of the Cuban Five also condemns the economic blockade
imposed on Cuba now going for more than five decades. This goes on to
demonstrate the cruelty of the imperialist forces.
"Zimbabwe also continues to suffer economic sanctions imposed by the same
imperialist western forces. We therefore demand the lifting of the
economic blockade against Cuba and the economic sanctions against
Zimbabwe," they said.
Referring to challenges, Cde Pesanai said, "We are aware that several
generations of Cubans have faced internal and external hostile forces
which have sought to hinder and eliminate the victorious Cuban Revolution
. . . "
There are more parallels between Cuba and Zimbabwe, and as we look back to
the one and half centuries, we get a broader picture that not only do they
share a common destiny, but they have so much to learn from each other.
The lessons should give them the conviction that they are in fact victors
and not losers.
Cuba and Zimbabwe have become some of the shining examples of how
diminutiveness can translate into might if powerful nations, for decades
on end have to invest so much in order to destroy them. Cuba is less than
100km from the world's super power, the United States, but it has defied
Cuba has been demonised, but the people have remained united, rallying
other progressive forces in the international community on their side.
Evidently, some along the way become sell outs, but this has not doused
the revolutionary flame. As they look ahead to the 54th anniversary, with
Zimbabwe celebrating 33 years of independence on April 18, there should be
a true sense of triumph, and not victimology. The economic crunch has
taken its toll, but they are down and not out.
The mood and feeling at the celebrations on January 28 was that of
forward-looking, no matter how bumpy the road. Like José Martí, they
refused to be treated like scoundrels and buried in darkness to die like
traitors, for they know that in the commonwealth of nations, they are
equally good and as good men they will die facing the sun.
The way forward is also well summarised by Fidel Castro, "I began (the)
revolution with 82 men. If I had to do it again, I do it with 10 or 15 and
absolute faith. It does not matter how small you are if you have faith and
(a) plan of action". Cuba and Zimbabwe's detractors should also in
Castro's words understand that "our country is not just Cuba; our country
is also humanity."
Original Source / Fuente Original:
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