By Marta Denis Valle *
Havana, (PL) Free Cuban dark-haired Rafael Serra Montalvo (1858-1909), descendant of slaves and fatherless in childhood, faced racial prejudice in society slave and adversity against his person.
] Serra soon became a cigar maker, and managed to afford an elementary education; endowed with a natural intelligence, he moved to neighboring Matanzas, flourishing Cuban city due to slave exploitation.
There he successfully founded the Society of Instruction and Recreation The Harmony and a newspaper, of the same name, of low budget, directed both the black race.
He also directed a day school for children, where he taught black and mestizo day laborers at night.
The colonial Administration had allowed the organization of political parties and groups, as part of the policy of pacification applied after the Ten Years War (1868-1878).
Young man of only 20 years, tobacco worker, journalist and teacher, that will be in the future, but he was suspicious of the authorities who began to watch over him and they asked for their collaboration, at the outbreak of the Chiquita War (1879), which was joined by hundreds of blacks and mestizos.
Serra was forced to emigrate to Key West, United, where the Cuban cigar workers constituted an economic emigration turned into patriotic since the war years.
Little by little the tobacco expert Serra also became a Cuban patriot and in 1884 he was part of the Gómez-Maceo Plan, which was proposed to raise funds to organize expeditions with the aim of resuming the war for independence.
In 1888 he moved to New York where he developed the founding project of La Liga, a protective society of instruction, in aid of Cubans and Puerto Ricans of the class of color, the most unprotected sectors of the New York City.
In this company he met José Martí (1853-1895), who became an enthusiastic collaborator, founding partner, honorary president and inspector-teacher, when La League, January 22, 1890.
'In my friends in La Liga I have pride and faith. Men are creating, and we are, "said Martí.
That year Serra wrote an article about José Martí for the Cuban newspaper El Porvenir, in New York.
Thus was born an intimate friendship between the two. On January 30, 1895, when the Cuban national hero left for Cape Haitian, on the way to Cuba, he wrote:
'Serra queridosísimo. Wherever I go, I speak of you, I speak with you, I hope in you, breastplate against all evil, flower of all tenderness, and my brother. Be here or there, do as if I were always watching. Do not tire of defending, or of loving. Do not get tired of loving. '
After his death in combat, Serra published in New York in his tribute and to disseminate Marti's work, the newspaper La Doctrina de Martí (1896-1898), which continued in Havana, From 1899 to 1901.
In the United States, Serra was a contributor to several newspapers and the newspaper Patria and member of the Cuban Revolutionary Party, the two great works created by Martí to unite all Cubans in emigration and encourage what he called necessary war.
He was also a speaker on several occasions and founded the newspaper La Verdad in 1894 and on returning to Cuba, the Nuevo Criollo; he wrote numerous articles and essays, also poetry.
The pamphlet The Possible Republic, which brings together several of his essays and notes, published posthumously in 1909, addresses the obvious relationship between class differences, product of exploitation systems, and differences Cuba's own ethnicities
Tireless scholar, he acquired a literary culture in a self-taught way that allowed him to rise in the post-war political fabric and, once again, confront the discriminators.
He was a constant defender of the civil rights of the Afro-descendants, ignored and trampled in the neocolonial Republic.
In 1904 he was elected to the House of Representatives by the National Party, nominated in the province of Oriente. He was serving his second term when he died on October 24, 1909, in Havana.
The author is a historian, journalist and collaborator of Prensa Latina
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