Exactly 125 years ago, the two biggest pains-in-the-ass for Spain were in New York City at the same time: José Martí and José Rizal. Rizal was en route to Europe having landed by boat in San Francisco some weeks before and traveling by train across the nation that would be the Philippines’ next colonizer. Martí had been living in New York for some time serving as consul and writing for newspapers in Argentina (if my memory serves me correctly) and elsewhere.
Ending on May 16, it was just a three-day stint for Rizal (maybe four, depending on how you read his letters) and references to New York City in later correspondence suggest that the place (and/or its people) were not kind to him. Of course, it’s easy to romanticize a meeting between Rizal and his Cuban counterpart, but they probably would not have agreed on much. Rizal wanted independent governance for his homeland without terminating Spanish sovereignty. When Rizal was detained in Manila, he was awaiting a boat to go to Cuba to serve as a doctor for Spanish forces. It’s likely he wanted to prove his loyalty to the crown. Meanwhile, Martí fought, in the end, for complete independence.
If you are ever in Chicago and have some time, it’s worth going to the Ayer Collection at the Newberry library, where there’s an impressive archive of Filipiniana. I’ve spent a good amount of time with Rizal’s diary from his med school studies in Spain, which begins with minutes from meetings, jumps to drawings and case studies, then transforms into German and French, and eventually diagrams and transcriptions of instructions on how to build trench fortifications. It’s a mysterious document and moving both despite and because of its mystery.
Anyway, cheers to the two Josés in New York City. Kalayaan. Libertad. Palagi. Siempre.