A white rose… again

Staff Columnist

A year or so ago I repeated a piece on a Cuban theme.  That was on the occasion of President Obama’s visit to Havana.  Today, June 16th,  President Trump traveled to Miami to announce his new, revised strengthened policy toward Cuba. This seemed worthy of note.  As such  I found it deserved a second read, as I hope you will. I find the subject verse  beautiful and powerful.

Quoting myself: “I don’t peruse the obits every day.  I’ll admit to scanning that page most mornings, reading  only the listings marked by a flag.  New Yorkers, and maybe Bostonians call these the Irish funny papers.  I’m not that addicted, yet.  Anyway, I noticed one long listing  on a Sunday morning.  It told of the death and life of a gentleman who had a long  life much of it spent in Cuba.  He had been designated a Naval Aviator in 1939, surviving WW II before a career in the sugar business as a pilot and executive.  His  family  (I suppose they composed the obit) included what they said had been his favorite verse, in Spanish.  It got my attention.”

I Have a White Rose to Tend (Verse XXXIX) by Jose’ Marti was the verse. It begins, “Cultivo una rosa blanca,” in the original language.  Maybe easier,

“I have a white rose to tend In July as in January;

I give it to the true friend

Who offers his frank hand to me.

And for the cruel one whose blows

Break the heart  by which I live,

Thistle nor  thorn do I give:

For him, too, I have a white rose.”

By Jose’ Marti, 1890

“An editor notes: In the language of flowers the white rose symbolizes – eternal love;  innocence;  heaven;  secrecy  and silence. “  Heavy stuff, eh?  I looked a bit further.

Jose’ Juian Marti Perez,  (1853 – 1895) was a Cuban national hero and an important figure in Latin American literature.  In his short life he was a poet, a journalist, a revolutionary philosopher, a translator, a professor, a publisher, and a political theorist.  He was also a part of the Cuban Freemasons.  Through his writings and political activity, he became a symbol for Cuba’s bid for independence against Spain in the 19th century.  He also fought against the threat of United States expansionism into Cuba.

Born in Havana, Marti began his political activism at an early age.  He traveled extensively in Spain, Latin America, and the United States raising awareness and support for the cause of Cuban independence.  His unification of the Cuban émigré

community, particularly in Florida, was crucial to the success of the Cuban War of Independence against Span.

Marti is considered one of the great turn-of-the-century Latin American intellectuals.  His written works consist of a series of poems, essays, letters, lectures, a novel.  He wrote for numerous Latin American and American newspapers.  One of his poems was adapted to the song  “Guantanamera”,  which has become the  definitive patriotic song of Cuba.   (Wikipedia)

Now we know a bit about the author of the verse.  He was, of course, important to the development of our hemisphere, especially of our neighbor Cuba.  That’s worthy of note I think.  The verse, the favorite of our obituary subject is thought by some to be  Cuba’s national poem.

I found the verse to be moving, so I share it with you, our readers.  We need to be moved sometimes, yes?  Others   more  learned and receptive to verse than I may have found the white rose to represent innocence and even vulnerability.  Offering it to both friend and foe is a courageous thing to do.  A good plan for us too.

The poem might be a beautiful expression of love;  beautiful words from the pen of a revolutionary.

When I was a boy (Ensign) on Grand Turk in the British West Indies we used to listen to the radio at night.  The station from the Dominican Republic was always powerful.  I remember vividly the phrase “Pueblos de Cuba” (in Spanish of course).

The Dominican announcer repeated the advice of El Benefactor (Rafeal Trujillio) to the  people of Cuba to reject the one who was coming down from the mountains of Oriente Provence.  Trujillo said that one would betray the people of Cuba.  That one was Fidel Castro.  Maybe Cuba was coming full circle from Marti’s day.  Who knew?

Cuba is important to Florida, to the United States.

Sometimes it is wise to look beyond the headlines to the history, maybe even the poetry of a place.

We try.”


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