Monday, September 22, 2008

Coney Island

I chose to focus my blog on Martí's Coney Island. I was supposed to read Nuestra  America el año pasado but never got to it and therefore my knowledge of Jose Martí work isn't what it should be.
As I read Coney Island, I often lost track of the point Martí was trying to make - whether or not there was one - because he went of for paragraphs at a time describing the things he saw and his observations. His run on sentences and endless use of adjectives were poetic and beautiful but easily lost on me as my spanish vocabulary is lacking to say the least.
I did find many recurring descriptions and themes that I though would be an interesting topic of discussion (maybe someone else noticed them too?). I noticed that he seemed to always describe the United States with a sense of curiosity and wonder. Because Martí describes his thoughts in  long passages, I will as well. There always seem to be crowds or throngs of people (muchedumbres) everywhere, they are never sleeping and vary greatly in appearance and the women seem to be free to do what they please (even if they are married). The throngs of people parade around the street at all hours of the day. Wealth is available and everywhere, everything is new and exciting. Martí always plays the part of the observer, curious but never a participant. I can imagine him with his little mustache wandering late at night, unable to sleep, quiet but with eyes wide open, watching and making mental notes of all the wonderful and awful things he sees as he strolls the streets and allies of Coney Island. 
My question then is why is Martí glorifying the strangeness of the New York middle and lower-classes? Does he admire their sense of freedom (and real freedom from British colonists)? Has he never seen anything like this in Cuba and in Europe? He kind of sounds like a naive tourist that has a way with words to me. I enjoyed in none the less


Max said...

I do agree with you about your description of Marti as a naive tourist. Many of his adjectives were glamorizing and uplifting what he saw, often ignoring the negative.

deanna-maria said...

I think that though Marti appreciates the US, and that he in fact came from a place that was stricken with poverty, he does (in my opinion) glorify New York and Coney Island. He never seems to step beyond that "tourist" outlook, but then again, maybe to him, the dirt and grime of Nuevo York was an improvement.

beth said...

I think you're bang on. There is a definite sense of glorification of the US. The extremely idealistic and optimistic perspective from which Marti writes about the United States does appear to stem from the lack of freedom he resents so much about his own country. I think for any tourist, New York is fairly overwhelming. It seems as though a city that size, with so many people from so many places around the world would have endless opportunities for newcomers. For someone struggling with colonial oppression in their home country, the awe for the wonder that is New York would only be amplified by comparison.

Serena said...

I thought it was interesting how you noted that Marti is an observer and never a participant. Maybe this allowed him to maintain his idealistic view of the U.S. He wouldn't be glorifying the riches and freedom of New York if he lived for awhile in one of its ghettos.