Reading the Sidewalk Near the NYPL

library_way_nypl_jose_martiReading the sidewalk is not something one would normally do. However, as many New Yorkers are aware, across from the New York Public Library along 41st Street, or Library Way, between 5th and Park Avenues, one can do just that. Brass plaques with quotes from literary and artistic greats inspire, amuse, and occasionally provoke deep thought. Today was beautiful (no jacket required), and I walked along Park Avenue for a while, then moved over to 5th, not only because it was where I need to be, but because I wanted to walk past the NYPL‘s Schwartzman Building. There’s just something about it.

I took a quick turn for some inspiration and found the quote in the above photo from José Martí, Cuban poet and revolutionary–the Cuban revolution that happened long before the one most people from the U.S. think of. Martí was actually concerned with independence from Spain and did much of his well-known writing right here in NYC, having been exiled (again) from his homeland. “Our America” (aqui en español) is probably his most famous work, an essay that he wrote while in exile in Mexico on the independence of America (all of it) from not only European rule, but also from outdated ideas that would hinder the growth of the concept of the “New World.”

While most people from Spain and Latin American countries know all about Martí, he is barely known at all in the United States. Kind of sad, really. His writing is often quite beautiful–even when discussing difficult subjects–actually it is probably the most beautiful when he does just that.
So I encourage you to do a little bit of reading–on the sidewalk of Library Way and José Martí: Selected Writings translated by Esther Allen. In both cases, you might find something beautiful.

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