V. LETTER TO THE EDITOR OF “EL ARGENTINO”
Mr. Editor of El Argentino ..
December 9, 1873
My dear Jose Manuel Estrada: Yesterday, when I returned from the productive trip during which I came to know and appreciate the beloved part of the Americas which I had studied from other countries, followed in its impulse, and revered by calling it to the attention of its brothers, without having to observe it with my own eyes; yesterday, when I was ready to believe it impossible to fade the bright hopes which encourage me to have trust in the American future and to have faith in the future of humanity in the Americas; yesterday, when I discarded the rumor of the executions in Cuba that had reached my ears while I was in Rosario as capricious fiction; yesterday, when I arrived in Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires greeted me with the confirmation of the discarded rumor, with the news and details of the new holocaust in a Cuba martyred for independence, liberty, dignity, and justice.
If I had been born Cuban, I would be doing my duty or would have already fulfilled my duty in Cuba. If I did not do so out of patriotism, I would do so out of dignity; if I would not do it out of the sacred love of justice, I would do it out of the divine hatred for injustice; when I would be either in Cuba or under the holy ground of the martyred land, not because of the feelings and ideals and conscience that serve as the constant principles of my existence, but because of egoism, which is no less active even when it is exceptional, and which makes the invigorating fight for great causes preferable to the unproductive pilgrimage through moral deserts much deafer than all the deserts that once were seas of salted waters and now are seas of weeds or sand.
But I am Puerto Rican, and to providence, chance, or the law which measures the resistance of a spirit by the forces that oppose it, I have owed the glory of having been born to serve my country in the part of the American land most persecuted by misfortune and where the evils which most overwhelm an honorable conscience have fallen with the most violent fury.
. El Argentino, Buenos Aires, December 9, 1873. Published under the title “The Executions in Cuba.”
It was necessary to fight in favor of an armed Cuba and in favor of a defenseless Puerto Rico, searching for the sympathy for one which could one day be used for the other, and I have spent three bitter years in the fight that I curse and bless at the same time. I curse the fight as futile; I bless it because it has taught me lessons which the future of my unfortunate country will put to use.
During those three years, at all times, at every moment, affiliating myself with ‘a hurried conscience with all the good intentions I have supported, rejecting with an indignant conscience everything I have run up against along the way that is bad for the Americas; during those three years, dedicated with my voice, my pen, and my example of an altruistic life to the fraternity of all these peoples and the defense of all the disinherited, were they rotos and huasos or araucanos in Chile, Chinese or Quechua in Peru, be they gauchos or Indians in Argentina; during those three years, dedicated to asking for the loyal practice of democratic principles, the formation of an American people for democracy, and the education. of American women to precipitate the future of America-never, at any moment, in active or sedentary life, speaking for one or for all, before the public or before a simple and generous soul, never have I ceased to invoke America to support me in the sacred work that should not be realized by one man alone. It should not, because the future of America is not the responsibility of one single American, but rather of all Americans, and they all have the right to contribute to the work of redeeming the Antilles. The redemption of the Antilles and the future of Latin America are identical realities. Time, a better testimonial than any man, will be my witness.
Assured that future interests are identical and believing that nobody in Latin America would have forgotten the heroic tradition of the war of independence, and also believing that all her children, natural or adopted, felt in their souls the same drive that keeps mine resolute, I have become tired, weary, at times bored, and more than once I have been embarrassed to have so futilely called these nations to so worthy a cause.
In Latin America, where no European is a foreigner because his work naturalizes him and makes him a son of Latin America, I, who work with my mind, soul, and conscience in order to contribute to the future of Latin America, am a foreigner. In these societies, where no enterprise supporting commercial endeavors faces obstacles, where no enterprise that aids material progress fails to find patrons and disciples in foreigners or Americans who are made cosmopolitan by the feeling of civilization, I have not found any determination to aid my enterprise in the governments, nor any effective sympathy in the people. Some want what I
want; some combat what I combat; some would be energetically inclined to what I am inclined to, if material obstacles, on the one hand, and indifference from the great causes that determine exclusively material progress, on the other, did not also oppose the triumph of a noble idea.
A life devoted to good things has authority everywhere. I have that authority, and today, December 9, 1873, forty-nine years after Ayacucho, on the anniversary of that American day, I come with the authority earned from an honest life to ask the Argentine people-who so effectively intervened at Ayacucho with their mounted grenadiers and heroic veterans of the Andes-for a cry of indignation, an honest protest against the acts of vile barbarism that Republican Spain is committing in Cuba, that the Spanish Republic is committing on the martyred Island, that the Spaniards in Havana and Madrid are celebrating with horrible joy.
A few dignified men, who throughout their lives never ceased to fight in their country against the abominable system which Spain has used to enslave the Antilles, departed for Cuba aboard the Virginius. While disembarking they were taken prisoner by a gunboat. The gunboat Espanola turned them over to the authorities in Santiago de Cuba, in the southwestern part of the Island, and the Spanish authorities have executed four of these good men who had lived as they died, hating and fighting injustice.
With regard to the interests of the revolution in warring Cuba and in a Puerto Rico that is ready to go to war, the execution of those noble representatives of the revolution is a good thing: every martyrdom is an incentive for martyrdom, and there is no one on the disgraced islands who would rather live there as a slave than die for his country, redeemed by the deaths of her sons. Heroic enthusiasm is born out of this preference, and this enthusiasm has made the independence of all America the kindest and most glorious event in the history of humanity in our time.
With regard to the interests of Cuban and Puerto Rican patriots, the martyrdom of the prisoners on the Virginius is an inestimable gain. If at one time Cuba had been satisfied with the new order of things in Spain and had called a moment of truce, the truce has now been broken. If Puerto Rico once trusted in the Spanish Republic, there is no longer any possibility for trust. Before the last peace negotiations, all Antilleans-those who are fighting with arms in Cuba as well as those of us who are fighting with our sacrifices in order to prepare and decide the Puerto Rican revolution-all of us were willing to look upon the Spanish Republicans as brothers and separate ourselves from them with the smallest sacrifices possible. Today it is impossible, absolutely impossible,
for us to consider as Republican the government, the society, and some men who allowed the injustice in Santiago de Cuba, who acted as the monarchs acted, who before the world dishonored the republican principles which they love for themselves and detest in those whom they should respect as they would their own sons.
With regard to the world’s horrified conscience, the execution of our brothers will be good for Cuba and Puerto Rico: the horror of the human conscience will quickly turn into decisive aid for both islands.
But with regard to the humanitarian sentiment that has been hurt by Spain’s horrible vengeance in Cuba, the executions of Quesada, the young Cespedes, Jesus del Sol, and Ryan is new proof of Spain’s systematic cruelty and the incurable madness of those drinkers of heroic blood, and Latin America as a whole and the Argentine Republic itself must show, by protesting against Spain, that they have faith in justice, the sacred enthusiasm of heroic patriotism, and the virtuous repulsion against the crime, things which give glory to the people and give them the right to be counted among those who follow the instinct of perfection and progress.
Effective protests are those which aid the good against the evil, the just against the iniquitous, the victim against the persecutor.
While the protest is being organized, let there be no newspaper in Buenos Aires and the Republic of Argentina that does not condemn the iniquitous execution, that does not despise the horrible complacency with which the Spaniards in Havana and Madrid have accepted it.
Let there be nobody, not even the Spaniards who owe the freedom to work and prosper they enjoy in this land to her independence. It is in their interests to show that the Spaniards in Havana and Madrid who have celebrated a catastrophe with jubilation are not the same Spaniards who live by honest work and encourage noble ideas, but rather the ones who have lived exploiting the enslavement of the Antilles.
The Spanish Republic which has allowed this pointless execution has lost the right to be respected and trusted, but the Spaniards who protest its acquiescence will prove with their protest that they are what those who dishonor the Republic and Spain are not.
The more I love the cause I represent, the more I wish its enemies worthy of it, and far from finding an argument against justice, I discover an argument in favor of it, when the same people who acknowledge justice combat it out of interest, weakness, worry, or error fight it. There may be a noble sacrifice in defending an unjust cause: there isn’t a noble man who fails to condemn injustice.
Whether individually or in a group, I hope that in any way the Argen
tines will join me in condemning the latest iniquity of those who are fighting against Cuba.
If only one protest is obtained, it does not matter: Cuba loves and respects those who support and aid her with their votes.