Considerable attention has been given to Cuban poet, essayist, and activist José Martí’s 1891 essay “Nuestra América,” but relatively little has been paid to the rest of the journalistic work that Martí produced during his fourteen-year exile in the United States. In José Martí’s Our America, Jeffrey Belnap and Raúl Fernández present essays from Latin American, Caribbean, and U.S.-based scholars who consider Martí’s rich and underexplored body of work and position Martí as an emblem of New American studies. A Cuban exile from 1881 to 1895, Martí was a correspondent writing in New York for various Latin American newspapers. Grasping the significance of rising U.S. imperial power, he came to understand the Americas as a complex system of kindred—but not equal—national formations whose cultural and political integrity was threatened by the overbearing aggressiveness of the United States. This collection explores how in his journalistic work Martí critiques U.S. racism, imperialism, and capitalism; warns Latin America of impending U.S. geographical, cultural, and economic annexation; and calls for recognition of the diversity of America’s cultural voices. Reinforcing Martí’s hemispheric vision with essays by a wide range of scholars who investigate his analysis of the United States, his significance as a Latino outsider, and his analyses of Latin American cultural politics, this volume explores the affinities between Martí’s thought and current reexaminations of what it means to study America. José Martí’s Our America offers a new understanding of Martí’s ambiguous and problematic relation with the United States and will engage scholars and students in American, Latin American, and Latino studies as well as those interested in cultural, postcolonial, gender, and ethnic studies.
Contributors. Jeffrey Belnap, Raúl Fernández, Ada Ferrer, Susan Gillman, George Lipsitz, Oscar Martí, David Noble, Donald E. Pease, Beatrice Pita, Brenda Gayle Plummer, Susana Rotker, José David Saldívar, Rosaura Sánchez, Enrico Mario Santí, Doris Sommer, Brook Thomas
In Translating Empire, Laura Lomas uncovers how late nineteenth-century Latino migrant writers developed a prescient critique of U.S. imperialism, one that prefigures many of the concerns about empire, race, and postcolonial subjectivity animating American studies today. During the 1880s and early 1890s, the Cuban journalist, poet, and revolutionary José Martí and other Latino migrants living in New York City translated North American literary and cultural texts into Spanish. Lomas reads the canonical literature and popular culture of the United States in the Gilded Age through the eyes of Martí and his fellow editors, activists, orators, and poets. In doing so, she reveals how, in the process of translating Anglo-American culture into a Latino-American idiom, the Latino migrant writers invented a modernist aesthetics to criticize U.S. expansionism and expose Anglo stereotypes of Latin Americans.
Lomas challenges longstanding conceptions about Martí through readings of neglected texts and reinterpretations of his major essays. Against the customary view that emphasizes his strong identification with Ralph Waldo Emerson and Walt Whitman, the author demonstrates that over several years, Martí actually distanced himself from Emerson’s ideas and conveyed alarm at Whitman’s expansionist politics. She questions the association of Martí with pan-Americanism, pointing out that in the 1880s, the Cuban journalist warned against foreign geopolitical influence imposed through ostensibly friendly meetings and the promotion of hemispheric peace and “free” trade. Lomas finds Martí undermining racialized and sexualized representations of America in his interpretations of Buffalo Bill and other rituals of westward expansion, in his self-published translation of Helen Hunt Jackson’s popular romance novel Ramona, and in his comments on writing that stereotyped Latino/a Americans as inherently unfit for self-government. With Translating Empire, Lomas recasts the contemporary practice of American studies in light of Martí’s late-nineteenth-century radical decolonizing project.