The Latin Mind
by Jose Martí, originally published in La América, New York, November, 1884. Reproduced in Obras Completas. Volume VI. La Habana: Editorial Nacional de Cuba, 1963. 24-26. Translated by Guillermo Calvo Mahé (Translation © Guillermo Calvo Mahé; Ocala, Florida, 2006; all rights reserved)
Among the many books favorably reviewed in La America’s “What’s New This Month” section, one delights, even though it’s only a school catalogue.
The catalogue delights, not because it provides grounds for hollow and superficial celebrations concerning new conquests. Those are better celebrated through arduous work rather than by meaningless words which, through constant repetition, deprive the ideas they encapsulate of prestige and energy. Rather, because through humble yet eloquent evidence, this small book gloriously highlights Latin intelligence.
Nature did not supply our forests with palms or evolve Amazons and Orinocos to water our shires in vain; abundance flows from those rivers and grace from the palm groves, the Hispanic mind is rational because of what the aboriginals safeguard, from that which is derived from the land, lovely and effusive, from what the Arab brought the Spaniard, languid and artistic. Oh! On the day it starts to shine, it will shine nigh the sun; the day on which we will put our rustic existence to rest. Indian academies; cultivators’ expeditions to agricultural countries; periodic as well as continuous journeys with serious purposes to the most advanced lands; stimulus and science in our sowings; timely presentation of our yields to foreign countries; copious highway networks within each country, and from each country to others; absolute and indispensable devotion to respect for other viewpoints; there you have what will come, albeit in some places it can only be viewed in the distance; there you have the new spirit, already fashioned.
We are not lacking in resolve. Just look at the school’s catalogue. It’s a North American school where barely one sixth of the students are Hispanic. But not in awards; there the proportion grows, and if for every Spanish speaker six speak English, for every six North Americans commended there are another six Americans from the South.
On that meager list of classes and names, over which ordinary eyes carelessly skim, America dilates its gaze. Within this vast sum of analogies that comprise the universal system, a summary is contained in every minor detail, whether past or future; a great deed.
Shouldn’t it gladden us when we see a thin, anemic child from our homelands competing against well fed and full blooded rivals … prevail?
In this school of which we speak, students of Hispanic origin mostly attend basic or commercial classes. But, among the rolls of those who excel in commercial classes, two out of every three are from our homelands. The best bookkeeper is a Vicente de la Hoz. The one who knows most about commercial laws is an Esteban Viña. The one who monopolizes all the awards in his class, leaving nothing for the formidable “yanquizuelos” , is a Luciano Malabet; and, the three prizes for English composition were awarded, not to a Smith, an O’Brien or a Sullivan, but to a Guzmán, an Arellano and a Villa!
Oh! If only these intelligences of ours were set at the level of their own time; if they were not educated for the ruffs and erudite mortarboards from the era of audiences and governors; if they were not left, in their eagerness to learn, to suckle in the rootless and galvanic literature of half dead foreigners; if the successful association of intelligence that ought to be applied to a country were matched to the country to which it ought to be applied; if South Americans were prepared, not to live in France when they’re not French, nor in the United States (which is the most prolific of these bad models), when they are not North Americans, nor in the colonial era when they are already living post colonially, competing with active, creative, lively and free peoples, but rather, to live in South America! …. He who in South America gives his son a mere university education kills him.
Campaigns for political liberty are launched; campaigns for spiritual liberty, for the reconciliation of man with the land in which he ought to live, should be launched with greater vigor.