- LETTER TO EMETERIO BETANCES
110 Clinton Place, New York, June 8,1874
Mr. Emeterio Betances, Paris.
Dear friend and countryman: I received your letter in which you disprove what they told me in Saint Thomas and you dash my hopes to the ground.
According to that letter, this is what we have: we have that everything Castro and Blanco told me regarding the next expedition attributed to the efforts of Generals Quesada and Luperón is false; we have that you are only counting on the arms you have been offered, and that you have received a negative response to your request for $30,000 from Puerto Rico; we have that you have doubts about the supposed friends of the revolution in Puerto Rico, and that you have requested that I to ask Basora, who you say knows them well, about their conduct; and finally we have that we have nothing. What distressing news! A letter to Quesada? Special circumstances had made me value the word of the refugees in Saint Thomas, from whom I had no reason to expect more loyalty than they had given me in the past. They showed me one of your letters to someone in Ponce, in which you said that money was no longer needed and you asked only for u an answer to the question: “Are you willing to second an expedition?”
I had hoped to speak at length with Basora so I could answer the letter I have just quoted. I have been unable to see him again since the second time I spoke with him.
He tells me that he finds the people at the Agency inaccessible in so far as proceeding with the plan I have been proposing. As for me, I have found all this so cold, so obscure, so totally. Opposed to the revolution, and so full of reticence, mutual distrust, and mutual recriminations, that I haven’t even dared to speak concretely about Puerto Rico and the plan I conceived Thomas, fearing I would hear myself repeating that in Saint anything that is not ready money is a futile idea. I have decided not to talk about anything with anyone who has left our beloved countries. If you have to be rich to have influence and authority among the colonials, I will not regret that I cannot be bribed, nor will I change my ways.
It’s been eight months since the expeditionaries of the Virginius were
cruelly executed, and when I arrive here anxious to take part in an expedition, I find nobody else is even thinking about it. And with it being for Cuba, where nobody sends even a single weapon, how are they going to seriously consider Puerto Rico?
Never have they talked so much about “the sister island,” and there are even those who look for maps and who want to know her ports and who have promised to come with me even if they must abandon Cuba, but this doesn’t mean any more than one of these three things: either the naive illusion of those who are hopeful about what will be said in favor of Cuban independence in the next Congressional declaration, or the pretext employed by those who don’t want to do anything for Cuba until the U. S. Congress does so as not to discourage the exiles, or the result of instinct, which foresees the benefits of a diversion of efforts to Puerto Rico. Even if this has no substantial value, I have wanted to take advantage of it, but Basora has dissuaded me with his categorical declarations – he is or appears to be even more discouraged than I.
This terrible coldness toward everything and the criminal hatreds that cause division among the revolutionaries make any effort almost impossible, and the spectacle of the exiles unbearable.
Since Basora finds the plan I proposed to him for achieving something here hopeless, I took the more absurd one I also proposed to him to be more practical, and in keeping as always with what I have said, I will state it here. I propose:
First, that we move closer to Puerto Rico at all costs; Second, that we choose Santo Domingo as our meeting place; Third, that we determine, like I have determined, to risk everything, to act right away, relying on what we have, without further ado.
Time and circumstances are pressing us. On the one hand, the evidence of the colonial government in Puerto Rico. On the other, the dissolution of the colony in Cuba is near.
Puerto Rico’s independence will be impossible the day after Cuba’s. It would be a shame if foreigners were to obtain it for us.
It would be a great risk for the future if the Cubans were to initiate it for us. Puerto Ricans want independence: Reformists of all kinds will not want it until they see it prevail. Since they are counting on us and we give them hope, let’s begin. Beginning is everything, and to begin we don’t need armies or squadrons. I do not hide it, and far from hiding it, I declare to the few Puerto Ricans I see, the few I write, and the even fewer I trust, that what is happening today is the result of three tragic elements in the preparation for the revolution: lack of preparation, obstinacy in trying to do everything without being able to do anything, and the worst of all mistakes -the one I most violently accuse myself of
wanting to do from the outside what even for the dignity of the country would be better if done from the inside. But since there is no way to rectify past mistakes, we must stake everything. This everything is near Puerto Rico, not far away from her; it lies in our resolution to trust in those who are decided instead of those who are undecided, in ourselves instead of others, in inciting the revolution instead of waiting for it.
Ai3 sure of myself as I am, I would persevere until the last days of my life in this futile self-denial of everything, but, not having cause to be sure of the others, I am determined not to wait much longer. What I don’t do in Puerto Rico, I will do in Cuba. That is, if the means to get to Cuba eventually materialize. Not a word from Saint Thomas. And after they had committed themselves to going through with it, giving me categorical answers.
The hardest thing about revolutionary life is the relationships it imposes.
So as not to discourage the young people, I am going to send a little newspaper’ to Puerto Rico with funds from the youths themselves. I am sorry but pleased to have been as frank and as tough as I am in it. Outraged at having so many reasons to scorn so many people, I tell the naked truth. Perhaps it is the best policy for men and times like these.
I have read with great’ pleasure your eloquent treatise in favor of Cuba. The arguments against annexation are excellent. In the event that we should do something, I would like for us to raise the flag of the Confederation. I pushed this idea in the platform for the Antillean revolution which I wrote at the request of the exiles. This, plus making it understood that we are not greedy fools and that we are not after a presidency, is of the utmost importance to me, and jt will not seem new coming from my lips to those who, like you, have heard me formally de
declare that none of us wants the silly role of indispensable man. Those of us who have sacrificed the most must set an example of self-denial in such self-centered societies as ours.
0 A life that could have been useful has not been in vain if it is useless.
Ramirez, in spite of his better position, seems the same; he always asks me to send you greetings.
Let me know if you have better news than your humble servant.
- M. Hostos
. He is referring to La Voz de Puerto Rico, whose first issue was printed June 20, 1874, at the J. J. Bon printing house. (Editors’ note.)
- S. All the elements of the revolution, and the country, are quiet, and those of us who should be more united are far away and separated, and there is frozen indifference and not even an atom of enthusiasm, and our country is vilified, and we, we are impassive and our bodies alive.
Dear countryman! Dear friend! When will we leave the decency and self-denial and disinterest in fortune and life, of which we have given more proof than has been demanded of us? When will we have better occasion to die as good men and triumph as dignified men? When will we leave this dismal solitude that weakens us and in which we deeply harm ourselves by not doing all the good that we can for our country?
Let’s go, for heaven’s sake, let’s go once and for all!
Yours truly. .