By Oscar Montero (auth.)
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Additional resources for José Martí: An Introduction
Love itself was being tagged as a sentimental bibelot, mass produced and sold to the millions, when it should have been the binding force of any society. For Martí, Coney Island also became an emblem of the shattered landscape of exile. In the funhouse mirrors of the amusement park, he saw a new reflection of himself. In many of his writings, in the introspective moments of his essays and especially in his poetry, there is a fragmented self, an exile whose only home might be the literary realm he has created.
Magnificent carriages . . wait in front of the opulent Academy of Music,” Martí writes, where “elegant ladies display their dazzling jewels” (9:245). In the midst of luxury and pomp, Martí introduces a scene worthy of a photograph by Jacob Riis: 38 J OSÉ M ARTÍ: A N I NTRODUCTION Angry and blaspheming, the most despicable or most unfortunate men in the city crowd at the narrow doors of miserable lodging houses, in whose nauseating rooms, drunk with liquor and with hatred, which is as intoxicating as liquor, hundreds of boarders lie naked on the floor, around an ancient red-hot stove.
Martí’s writings about Coney Island have less of the fire-and-brimstone of the pulpit and something much closer to a reflective unease provoked by the spectacle before him. Martí’s “Coney Island” is closer to a meditation than to a sermon, though something of the reformer’s outrage lingers in its pages. 22 J OSÉ M ARTÍ: A N I NTRODUCTION Martí’s vision of Coney Island is closer to John Kasson’s critical reading of the amusement park as a “symbol of the new cultural order” than to the weekly jeremiads of nineteenth-century preachers.
José Martí: An Introduction by Oscar Montero (auth.)