Writing race: patria, mestizaje and racial identity in the works of José Martí

Doctoral thesis English OPEN
Miranda Navarro, Oleski Jose (2016)
  • Publisher: The University of Edinburgh
  • Subject: José Martí | race | mestizaje | Latin America

The research herein presents an analysis of the evolution of José Martí’s racial thought throughout his written work. The principle focus of this investigation is to establish a comprehensive understanding of Martí’s racial ideas and to explain how the author developed the anti-racist principles demonstrated in his final years of life. The thesis proposes that José Martí’s ideas regarding race relations were shaped through a gradual process defined by his experiences of exile. To illustrate this position, I present a chronological mapping of his political and racial ideas, ranging from his early writings as a youth (1869), when he established his anti-colonial position against Spain, stretching forward through the end of his life, when Martí’s staunch position against racism was most visible in the context of his writings (1892-1895) in preparation for the war of Cuban independence. This research also reflects on how the Cuban author’s use of race and racism functioned as a principle node to address and promote change concerning political and social contradictions then present in Cuba, Hispanic America and the United States. To understand the process of the construction of José Martí’s racial position, texts he published during his stay in countries with a large indigenous presence, such as Mexico and Guatemala (1875-1878), are analysed. Additionally, the articles, essays and chronicles written by the author on the subject of race during his fifteen-year stay in the United States (1880-1895) are examined, as racial conflict was a prominent issue in political and national debates of the time. The thesis also focuses on the period of organisation and political activism when Martí presented his model for Cuba as a patria libre, defined by the heightened participation of Blacks and mullatos. My examination also focuses on Martí’s 1891 proposal to adopt mestizaje as a regional identity, taking into account the ideological environment of the late eighteen hundreds, which was dominated by Positivism and Liberalism in Hispanic American governments and by economic expansionism in the United States. This study thus provides an approach to understanding the development of José Martí’s racial thinking over the course of his lifetime, demonstrating how his racial ideas were defined and influenced by national and regional contexts, as well as by dominant ideologies, and proposes that Martí’s views regarding race came about as a result of the author’s intellectual and experiential progression, as opposed to being the result of a lifelong anti-colonial stance.
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