The bad ones only succeed there where the good ones are indifferent - José Martí

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Martí the journalist

FROM THE NATIONAL PRESS

BY PEDRO PABLO RODRIGUEZ —Taken from Habanera

JOURNALISM occupied a good part of the life and interests of José Martí, who published his first article in the press just a few days before he turned 16 years old.

While posterity has established the literary image of Martí as a poet, his contemporaries knew and admired him above all because of his newspaper articles, given that the two books of poetry that he was able to publish with his own money were distributed by him to his friends and acquaintances as gifts, while more than a dozen Hispanic-American newspapers featured his writings. And it is evident that that universe of newspaper readers was far larger than those who knew his poetry.

For scholars on Martí’s style, it is essential to study his prose to be able to understand the transformation of the Spanish language  created by the Cuban revolutionary; likewise, those who study his ideas know that those journalistic pieces cover diverse themes and issues that attracted his attention.

Martí’s “professional” entry into journalism occurred when he was 22 years old, during his stay in Mexico from 1875 to 1876, and once could say that it was fortuitous. His family had established itself in the capital, and the young man, after graduating with degrees in law and philosophy and letters in Spain, had traveled to reunite with his parents and sisters and with the idea of supporting them via his law practice.

His family, meanwhile, had found support in a Mexican neighbor who worked in the administration of the Federal District, and who accompanied Martí Sr. to wait for the young man at the train station on the night of his arrival.

Manuel Mercado was a providential man who not only became a close friend to Martí, entrusted with his feelings and political ideas in correspondence; he also opened the doors of Mexican society to the young lawyer via his extensive relationships.

It was Mercado who led him to the Revista Universal, a pro-government newspaper that featured the cream of Mexico’s writers at the time.

Interestingly, the first article by Martí published in that paper was a poem to one of his sisters, who had died weeks before his arrival, as well as other poetry included in later editions. However, from 1875, he became a staff writer and learned the arts of the profession, writing about the most diverse subjects.

In Revista Universal, Martí wrote many in-depth articles on national and international issues; wrote reviews for the section titled “Post from the Theaters;” attended, for a couple of weeks, the Parliamentary Bulletin that reported on debates in the Mexican Legislature; published French translations and a story, and frequently included unsigned articles in the society and gossip section.

There is no doubt that the journalist was shaped at that newspaper, filling in spaces at night when it was about to go to press, adjusting articles on the day’s events in the corresponding section, and writing last-minute items to make up for what had not been done. He was a staff writer, enamored of the lead type and ink in the pressroom, and attentive to the typesetter to avoid errors that concerned him so much; in Mexico, Martí was an all-around newspaperman.

His Mexican journalism is significant to understanding the process of formation of his ideas and his style, and scholars have frequently used his articles for that purpose.

But only recently was it confirmed that Martí also wrote countless brief news items for the section of Revista Universal called “Echoes from Everywhere” and then “Briefs.”

Via a rigorous examination of the style of each brief and the matters they report, experts at the Martí Studies Center charged with the critical edition of his Complete Works have determined his authorship of more than 100 briefs that had never before been collected.

In the journalism of that era, briefs covered a wide variety of topics, and had an informational character, although that type of writing was usually used for commentary and political debate.

The Revista Universal briefs had that type of spirit, and while the section had a responsible reporter, it was very common for other members of the staff to write for it –explicitly stated at times – and sometimes these contributors even signed or initialed their work.

That was the case with Martí on more than one occasion, and he often found himself drawn into polemics, above all when another newspaper would challenge his habitual defense of Cuba’s independence struggle.

The issue has been the basis for attributing to him, without any doubt, the authorship of many of these briefs, as well as their Latin Americanist perspective, their concern with artistic creation and technological and scientific advances, the importance they give to education and above all, their sententious style.

Like the rest of his journalism, and particularly, as was seen in later briefs written by him, these articles published in Revista Universal show — despite their brevity and the ephemeral nature of their information in many cases — a singular trait of his journalistic style and of all his writing: the use of judgment, the expression of an opinion, his indictments based on ethics of humanism and service.

The Mexican briefs show, once again, the high level of dignity and professional respect that Martí brought to his practice of journalism. The most humble unsigned note shows that it was worthy of the same singular attention as a prominently featured in-depth article.

The briefest and most succinct briefs were for him a channel just as significant as others for spreading his ideas and fulfilling the duty that he attributed to journalism in one of his articles called “Bulletins” for Revista Universal: “The press is not generous approval or insulting rage; it is proposal, study, examination and counsel.”

Education in Querétaro

HONOR to whom honor is due.

It is currently deserved by the Querétaro authorities and Mr. Hipólito A. Vieytes, for the tireless promotion they have given to elementary school education in those counties, and for the relatively extraordinary progress in that field that they have achieved during this time.

Nobody can move us from our idea; the salvation of our people lies in schools, in the cultivation of intelligence, and in the dignifying of the individual.

This noble human vanity should be held dear: opinions should be educated, and pride should be well-directed: give to each man his self-esteem, attainable only through education, and there will be fewer crimes and errors.

Congratulations for Vieytes and the Querétaro authorities.

(Revista Universal, July 29, 1876)

(Granma) 25-01-2007

 
 
 

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