- LETTER TO THE PRESIDENT OF PERU’
Don Manuel Pardo. Lima.
My dear and worthy friend: I am answering your letter, written on a day of patriotic unrest, on what may be as propitious a day for Latin America as it is of great anguish for me.
Today is the anniversary of Cuba’s uprising against the systematic tyranny of colonialism.
You can and probably want to contribute to making this anniversary of martyrdom a most glorious day for the virtuous people you govern, and by making this the worthy object of my letter, I will make my answer worthy of your noble letter.
I do not write to persuade you: your actions in favor of Cuba and your confidential words have assured me of the virtuous disposition of your will.
Nor do I write to convince you: if I have rational faith in the sentiment of Americans, it is just as rational when it comes to the intelligence of the statesman, and an American statesman would not be intelligent if he needed to be convinced of the significance that the complete independence of the continent will have in the political and social future of all America.
I do not even write to make a new effort in favor of Cuba; I know that Cuba will triumph in her struggle, and I am much more sure of her triumph than I am of the effectiveness of my solitary effort.
I am writing this letter to discuss my favorite topic, to demonstrate the possibility of doing immense benefits for Latin America, by making her contribute to the independence of the Antilles.
When you took it upon yourself to notify me that a circular had been received in Peru in which the Colombian Minister of Foreign Relations invited all Latin American governments to unite in favor of Cuba, you confided to me your plan to answer the proposition made by the Colombian government with a convocation of an American Congress. This plan was made public in the United States, where it was applauded by the
. El Argentino, Buenos Aires, October 13, 1873. Published under the title “Cuba y la America Latina” [“Cuba and Latin America”].
press, and in order to praise your very noble proposition, it is right for me to publicly reinforce the reasoning I privately employed then.
I believe, as strongly as I desire, that the independence of Cuba and Puerto Rico will serve, must serve, and can serve the future of Latin America.
It will serve, because in the natural plan of the geography of civilization the Antilles play the role of commercial and industrial middlemen: commerce is an activity applied to needs; industry is a science applied to the well-being of men, and both are conductors of ideas as well as of physical elements for well-being; both are transmitters of moral and intellectual progress as well as of material progress.
It must serve, because the Antilles are a geographical complement to the American Continent, an historical complement to American life, and a political complement to American principles, and the Antilles have not only the right but the duty to resist each and every action that disrupts the geographic, historical, and political unity of America.
It can serve, because the independence of the Antilles means nothing less than the emancipation of labor, and subsequently, an increase in population, production, and physical resources for American civilization; it is nothing less than the emancipation of commerce and industry, and therefore, the elimination of the material obstacles which up until now have hindered communication between a great part of America and those islands, which are the natural mediators between the Old and New Continents; it is nothing less than the geographical reconstitution of the American Continent, and therefore, the unification of all the parts into the whole; it is nothing less than the continuation of the historical movement of continental independence, and therefore, the movement of the Antilles toward the period of their life in which, relying upon themselves, they will contribute with all of Latin America to the resplendent future of new civilization created by the New Continent; it is nothing less than the acclamation of the moral and political principles on which American democracy is founded, and therefore, the definitive direction of all of
American society towards its own, necessary, and inherent ends, independent of those which govern European sociability.
As the independence of the Antilles will, ‘must, and can serve the future of the whole continent, it is obvious that the emancipation of the Antillean peoples is in the immediate interests of the people with whom they share the intimate background of origin, history, and character: the immediate interests of a people are, because they must be, the aim of the people’s government. Are all the South American governments faithful servants to the immediate interests they represent? Then all these governments should have the aims I attribute to them.
Yet how can the governments of Latin America realize the independence of the Antilles once it is converted into a government plan?
This difficulty, perhaps insuperable by any other means, is not impossible by the means you have devised. The meeting of an American Congress, I know very well, is a formidable obstacle in itself, but it is the only one that can oppose the noble design. Once this obstacle is overcome, the Congress would find a powerful aid for its task in the current situation in Spain.
It is important to study this point.
Spain, led by men who maintain the necessity for a federal republic as a form of government which is complementary to democratic doctrines, cannot be as opposed today to the independence of her Antilles as the monarchical regime was. The men who today have the future of that country in their hands cannot be enemies in Cuba and Puerto Rico of the rights they claim for each and every one of the Spanish provinces.
Now that Mr. Salmeron y Alonso, the man who has most eloquently and nobly condemned the conduct of the monarchy in the Antilles, is the thought and inspiration of the Spanish Republic; now that, in order to pressure him with moral coercion into being consistent with his doctrines and declarations, it is enough to remind him of the most outstanding example of logical consistency and respect for his ideas which he has given by separating himself from the Presidency of the Executive Power so as not to violate the faith of his conscience; now that with him and like him there is an entire public opinion that incites, in the true social formation which today is stirring up the Iberian Peninsula, the most obscure social strata to put them in contact with the freest atmosphere of the most human ideas; now that, finally, the same difficult elaboration which produces anarchy over there makes it impossible for the Spanish government to effectively attend to the war which it is futilely waging against Cuba, not only is it possible to attract the peninsular government to a conciliatory pact with Latin America and the Antilles-a pact which gives independence to the two islands still possessed by Spain against their will and the will’ of the future of the continent, but also, in attempting for and obtaining this conciliatory pact, Latin America would have done a great service to the republican cause and democratic principles in Spain.
The reason is clear.
Freed of the tremendous obligation of being inconsistent in the Antilles, the Spanish Republic could dedicate itself completely to resolving the embarrassing problems which trouble it in Spain. Bound to American democracy by the double bond of a service rendered and received, it would have the moral strength which the current President of
the Executive Power, Mr. Castelar, has recently boasted of, when presenting, as a demonstration of the vitality of the Spanish Republic, the fraternal sympathy which the change in peninsular government has aroused in the republican peoples of this continent.
But if a feeling of honest commiseration and a supreme interest in the principles which constitute the vitality of American life should encourage all Americans (governments and patriots, executives and lobbyists for the future) to seek the well-being of Spain in the well-being of America, then a reflective appreciation of the circumstances should move us to seek the real and immediate benefit in the benefit that, by means of an American Congress, would be obtained for the Antilles and for Spain herself.
The circumstances in a Latin America dedicated to the development of her strengths, progressing in the combined material elements of civilization, and tending by the very action of her development to evidence her vitality in evident actions, are favorable for immediately proposing the American Congress: it would give proof of combined strength, and the joint efforts of all these governments toward a great objective would constitute in the eyes of America and Europe the international character which none of these republics alone can have.
I am well aware that the four unfortunate attempts for an American Congress have weakened the idea that Bolivar precipitated in time and all those who seek the American future have wanted to precipitate to the circumstances; but shown the coincidence of the circumstances with the need to bring these governments together in a common effort, would the success be as incomplete as it was before?
Suppose that it is not; suppose that Latin America, provoking the response of republican Spain, attracted her to a resolution which would be glorious for her, useful for humanity, and honorable for the peoples and governments represented at the Congress-would it not regain all the authority it had lost?
And reinstated, would it not immediately win a decisive influence in the destiny of Latin America? Wouldn’t its governments believe that the time had come to use their influence? Wouldn’t they be able to use it, planting the bases of the future Latin American union? Doesn’t the base of this union lie in the prior agreement on geographical boundaries, neutralization of the means of communication by land, waterways, and sea, common representation before the governments of Europe, reciprocal validation of professional studies, and the series of visible or foreseeable needs that internally link these nations and which should prepare their eternal alliance?
And with these things being the base of this alliance, would it not be
possible and convenient to form a family bond from one of those interests, which only in appearance are unmatched and contradictory? Being possible, would it not be convenient to submit to the American Congress one of those questions that today separate some of these peoples from each other and that could separate them all forever from the noble common interests in which nature, democracy, the past, present, and future of civilization have brought them together in fraternal spirit?
I know that you were thinking of all these arguments in favor of the American Congress when you proposed the plan to answer the proposition in the Colombian government’s widespread circular with a proposition to convene the Congress; but I wanted to contribute to making this purpose achievable by studying its nature completely.
Therefore, if I have done nothing else, I will have demonstrated that the sincere practice of reason could reconcile ideas, sentiments, and interests as hostile as those which unjustly arm Spain against Cuba, and I will have demonstrated that in all of Latin America there are still people who have the lofty spirit of the founders of the Republic.
And as you-by proposing an American Congress to save martyred Cuba and redeem enslaved Puerto Rico-have demonstrated that you feel inside you the breath of the spirit which vile egoism has suffocated, you are worthy of the gratitude that the Antilles feel for all those individuals who can associate the glory and well-being of their country with the rights, liberty, and well-being of the sister nations which violence is stealing away from the American family.
Therefore, and to make known in advance that in any Latin American attempt in favor of the Antilles there will not even be the slightest trace of ignoble passions, I have associated your name with the memory of the most splendorous day that has shined in the Antilles.
If in this way I am able to revive in the public spirit of Latin America the idea which I have now extolled twice as being worthy and wise, and which has the most strength because it spontaneously comes from one of the governors in America who most sincerely desire the association of the present progress of the people they govern with the noble duties of the future; if in this way I am able to express to you in advance the gratitude of my country, I will lessen the uneasiness I feel upon presenting for public scrutiny the feeling of respect and reflective esteem with which I continue to be
Your friend and humble servant,
Eugenio M. Hostos
Buenos Aires, October 10, 1873