III. LETTER TO FRANCISCO SELLEN
Santiago de Chile, July 12, 1896
Mr. Francisco Sellen, New York.
Dear old friend: I enjoyed receiving and reading your letter of the 9th of May, which I have been unable to answer until today.
I too am pleased that your letters are long, and that mine give me time to speak somewhat at length with you.
You write about how you have been unable to forget for a moment how my distance from the revolution puts me in a predicament similar to those suffered by Tantalus and Prometheus; nor can I forget it, when I think of what my affection for South America cost me, on that night in Madison Square when I bid you all farewell, my friends, the loyal followers of that short but rough campaign of 1870, during which we fought so hard for independence without having to set foot on the battlefield.
During that farewell, which today is my nightmare, I said goodbye unknowingly and unwillingly to the struggle, responsibilities, passionate joys, and fervent anxieties of the revolution which with such high designs and such absolute self-denial I have been evoking since my adolescence.
But let’s leave my weary person aside, and discuss Cuba and Puerto Rico.
. Seeing the natural strength of the separatist movement in Cuba, and reflecting on the current development and tendency of common international rights, I hope that the vote of the Congress and people of the United States will be lost in the indifference, delays, and transactions which executives live off of in their mutual fawning, condescension, and servility.
The fewer international restraints Cuba is both with, the better for her future independent Iife. The greatest disgrace of our societies, after the ill-fated guidance of Spain, is having to owe the form and essence of our civilization to already-formed societies. Oligarchy is as fatal to the autonomy of new or weak nations at the level of international government as government by families is at the national level. And unfortunately, the very finality of the constitution of the right of the people is causing this right-in order to establish, support, and impose itself-to form an
oligarchy of nations that have taken over the international. Direction of the world, because based on what the peace treaty between China and Japan has shown, Western oligarchic influence now extends all the way to the East.
The United States, because of their strength and power, are a natural member of this oligarchy of nations. To be born under their protection is to be born under their dependence: for Cuba, the Antilles, and America, for the future of civilization, it is wrong that Cuba and the Antilles should cross over to the side of the most absolute power that will soon exist in the world. It is advantageous to everyone that the noble archipelago, making itself worthy of its destiny, be the pivot in the middle of the scales, neither North nor South Americans, but Antilleans: this is our emblem, and may it be the purpose of our struggle, as much for today’s struggle for independence as for tomorrow’s struggle for liberty.
What flows from my pen is not new to you nor to our fellow collaborators, who so often, and in times as critical as the 1870’s, have heard even more categorical declarations from my lips and seen them supported by my conduct.
Yet as there have been times when a declaration of war from the United States was the only probable means of increasing our war resources, I came to fervently wish for that declaration and today I would celebrate it as a good thing for the war, as long as requirements for peace were not established.
What you tell me about Puerto Rico is in accordance with what I believe and am told by others. There is, nevertheless, a tendency to defy the unknown, which I would not condemn, if some probability favored it.
My wife and my eldest daughter, who share with me the kind affection inspired by your spirited wife, feel today, as I do, even more fond of her after reading your words that depict her as such a fervent friend of Cuba.
Greetings and regards to her from all.
As of yet I have only been able to skim through your poems. You do not have to excuse me from it, because it bothers me very much. However, I have enjoyed the patriotic poems and the serious and solemn beginning of Hatuey very much. From what you have told me of your work at La Equitativa, you already know that I cannot leave here for now.
Anywhere, I remain your ever dear and true friend,
E. M. Hostos