Francisco Goldman

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“The Evil Was Very Grave … ”

The Cuban independence hero and poet José Martí lived in New York from 1880 to 1895. He was a New Yorker, and easily the most important literary figure then residing in the city (after Walt Whitman's departure to rural New Jersey). During most of those years he made his living as a journalist, writing about the United States for the readers of Latin America's most important newspapers. His U.S. crónicas take up more than 2,000 pages of his collected works -- an unrivaled treasure of information, detail, insight, analysis, and thought about America's Gilded Age, all written in a vibrant, poetic prose that revolutionized the Spanish language. (Guillermo Cabrera Infante calls Martí's newspaper prose the greatest baroque instrument in the Spanish language since Francisco de Quevedo, the 17th-century Spanish poet imprisoned by the Inquisition.) A keen observer of politics, Martí closely followed the presidential election of 1884, which pitted Republican James G. Blaine against Democrat...