Through 1895, as Americans visited and invested in Cuba, Cubans moved to the United States to study and work.
It is in these years that we see the first significant Cuban immigration, setting up first in Florida and then in New York City, ah, in Philadelphia, in Boston and Washington. This period is critical to the formation of Cuban national identity, the—the means by which Cubans begin to articulate the discontent, ah, their—um, their, ah, angst with the Spanish colonial system.
Baseball soon became a national obsession in Cuba. The North American sport provided a welcome alternative to traditional Spanish entertainment.
And so we have this counterpoint, on one hand, between baseball and bullfighting. And bullfighting represents the colonial regime. It’s—it’s bloody. It’s individual. It’s singular. It seems to attract into the Havana bullring mostly the Spaniards. To—to play baseball is to be modern, to be, to be progressive. It is not to be Spanish. Coincidentally, some of the most important leaders of the Cuban insurrectionary movement are ballplayers who leave the ball field to take to the field of armed struggle.
The revolution began anew in 1895 under the visionary leadership of José Martí. A Cuban poet and journalist living in New York, Martí visited Cuban communities across the United States to promote and raise funds for Cuban independence. His ideas reshaped “Cuba Libre.”
Martí realizes that the weakness of the previous attempt at independence was that Cuba was not united. It was divided by class. It was divided by race. And so he decides to mobilize the exile community and to tell them that the cause of Cuba is one of all Cubans, wherever they are.