V. LEITER TO THE
EDITOR OF "EL ARGENTINO"
Mr. Editor of El
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.
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.
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.
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
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.