The Ambivalent Apostle of 1953: A liminal reading of the centenary of José Martí

Stephen Fay

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This article has common Cuban motifs at its core: the prevalent obsession with the notion of collective identity, the ideological and psychological importance of national anniversaries, and the omnipresence of the archetypal patriot José Martí. It approaches all from a particular theoretical perspective, however, and thus presents a new reading of the so-called ideario martiano and of the Cuban “national narrative” at a critical moment of the island’s historical trajectory: 1953, the centenary of Martí’s birth. Taking its lead from cultural anthropology (and particularly from the work of Victor Turner), this article presents the half-century since independence in 1902 as a post-colonial “rite of passage” punctuated by a series of turning points, or “limens,” within which the sense of national identity was exposed to sustained scrutiny by public intellectuals and activists. The article provides evidence of such intense collective introspection in 1953 when commemorations of Martí’s centenary stimulated a re-examination of the Republic in the light of his luminous example. Importantly, this turning point is also exposed as a battleground on which antagonistic interpretations of martiano heroism, Republican history, and national identity faced each other in exegetical strife.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)175-193
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Iberian and Latin American Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 21 Jun 2017


  • Martí, limen, history, heroism, identity


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