"Passionate American, exemplary chronicler, expert philologist, famous archaeologist, assiduous philosopher, fair lawyer, kind teacher, diligent writer, he was the pride of Cuba Bachiller and Morales, and ornament of his race. But more than for that astonishing industriousness, key and auxiliary of all his other virtues; more than for those shelves of knowledge that made his mind capable, like an Alexandrian library [...], he left his marble house with its fountains and its flowers, and his books, and with no more wealth than his wife, he came to live with honor, where the looks do not greet, and the sun does not warm the old, and the snow falls."

José Martí,

The Hispanic American Advertiser,

New York, January 24, 1889.

In homage to the birth of the illustrious Cuban Antonio Bachiller y Morales, (Havana, June 7, 1812 – Havana, January 10, 1889), the first bibliographer and father of Cuban Bibliography, we celebrate every June 7, the Day of the Librarian. About this distinguished intellectual Eusebio Leal said: "This is the man and the model of scholar, collector and lover of books that Cuba took to create its own date of remembrance for librarians."

The unfathomable erudition of Bachiller is due in large measure to his unusual talent and, of course, to his complete and learned academic training, which he managed to achieve by studying at the Seminary of San Carlos and San Ambrosio in Havana and at the capital University itself, among other prestigious educational institutions in the country in which he completed his excellent preparation.

In the Economic Society of Friends of the Country and in the Seminary of San Carlos, he held the Free Chair of Political Economy, in which he censured the shameful slavery prevailing on his beloved Island. He participated in the University Reform of 1842. And he was also in charge of the Chair of Philosophy of Law and the Deanship of the Faculty of Philosophy, an institution in which he perfected his library.

When Bachiller was elected to the position of Councilman of the City Council of Havana in 1860, he put his immense talent in function of the preservation of the documentation treasured by the Municipal Archive. Scholars of his life and work comment in this regard that the fruit of his exquisite work was also materialized in the rescue he made of several documentary funds that were considered lost until that moment.

When he was appointed Director of the Institute of Second Education of Havana, at the time of its foundation, in 1863, he managed in addition to designing and ordering the center, to teach classes of different subjects and create the library of that educational institution.

Along with other intellectuals, he called for "broad autonomy for Cubans as the only means to end the war." After the events of the Villanueva Theater and the Café del Louvre, it became suspicious for the Spanish authorities. As a result, his home was invaded and razed by members of the Spanish Volunteer Corps, in those circumstances he also lost his invaluable library. After the abuses and outrages to which his person, family and property were subjected; as well as the excessive persecution he suffered, he was forced to emigrate with his entire family to the United States, at the beginning of 1869, when the Ten Years' War had just begun. And he could only return to the Homeland after the signing of the Pact of Zanjón in 1878.

Among the fundamental texts of Bachiller are the Notes for the history of letters and public instruction on the Island of Cuba, which is considered "one of the most important contributions to the study of Latin American Bibliography"[1] and to the analysis of the progress achieved by civilization in Cuba. In the same way it is distinguished as the work that "marked the beginning of bibliographic work in our country.

This work written in an adverse situation, in the midst of censorship and restrictions imposed by the metropolis, was completed in 1861 and consists of 3 volumes." In the third volume appears the "Catalog of books and pamphlets published in Cuba from the introduction of printing until 1840 and periodicals." with a total of 1,020 titles. This invaluable text meant for Bachiller his entry through the wide door and "forever to the universe of bibliography when in the year cited, the publication of the same culminated."

Cubans are proud that the very extensive and erudite work he bequeathed to us is linked to books. To fully understand what its contribution to the national culture meant, it should be borne in mind that, since the publication of its first bibliography in 1861 —cited in the previous paragraph— Cuba can presume that it treasures a continuous National Bibliography. This is decisive for the knowledge and conservation of the memory of the country, since the national bibliography is one that records and controls in detail, the systematized description of the relationship or the catalog of all the management that in editorial matters is carried out in a country.

This great Cuban who had an encyclopedic knowledge, promoted in the country the love for reading, and was also distinguished "for his contributions in the investigation of the History of America prior to the discovery" or pre-Columbian history, as reflected in his works American Antiquities and Primitive Cuba. He also provided his important services to university teaching and philosophy.

The outstanding Cuban bibliographer and researcher Araceli García Carranza, said referring to Bachiller: "His work is fertile sap that drove the bibliographic work of disciples and continuators in the late nineteenth century and flourishes in the first half of the twentieth century, with the monumental work of Carlos Manuel Trelles y Govín and shines as never before since 1959, in the work of the National Library of Cuba". This is one of the places where he is remembered and honored daily, with the painstaking work of each Cuban librarian who, preserves with tenderness, love and infinite affection, the bibliographic heritage of the country, which is a substantial part of our most precious cultural heritage.

Revolutions go forward on paper roads

From its foundation in 1901 to the present day, the history of the José Martí National Library is inextricably linked to the development of Cuban culture; There is no moment or transcendent figure of Cuban knowledge that has not been in one way or another, linked to the future of this centennial institution.

Reading is not only a pleasure, but also a right for peoples who, like ours, place their main hopes on the development of their own potential; Because we well know that our fundamental economic resource is intelligence, sedimented culture and in permanent growth.

In addition to the noble and illustrious figure of Bachiller, Cubans must remember Domingo Figarola Caneda, another outstanding intellectual of this land, who contributed and donated his own collection of books and documents as part of the founding heritage of the Library. Thus began to forge this invaluable Fund that with time and the action of many has turned out to be, one of the most representative and numerous Bibliographic Funds of our America.

When reviewing the history of this institution throughout its existence, two qualities emerge without which we could not explain either its influence or its current prestige: its close relationship with the paradigmatic figures of the Cuban intelligentsia and its deep-rooted vocation for social service. Personalities such as Emilio Roig de Leuchsenring, who was the main animator of the movement that generated and achieved the construction of the new building and Fernando Ortiz, to whose wisdom and authentic Cubanness we owe the proposal that our National Library be deservedly named José Martí; They illustrate the sense of responsibility with which our leading thinkers welcomed the emergence and development of this institution as their own.

To themselves and to those who succeeded them in the task of safeguarding and disseminating the bibliographic and documentary heritage of the nation, we are grateful that we have never separated our National Library from its projection of service to the people. Because, not even in the worst and darkest moments of our country, the Library as a public concept, was proposed to be a stronghold of a few elites.

But it is known that this vocation would not find resonance or fertile support of the state will until after 1959, when the Revolution, inaugurating freedom for Cubans, eradicated illiteracy and democratized access to culture and knowledge. Marti's assertion that it is necessary to be educated to be free has never been so truthful.

The creative apogee that brought with it the revolutionary deed of 1959, widely socialized the role of the Library as a cultural institution linked to the community and public service. This promotional emergence corresponded to the strategy of the State that started from considering reading as an essential part of human redemption. It was Fidel who best defined the objectives of the Revolution in this regard, when he said: "We do not tell the people, believe; We tell him, read." The work of the revolutionary government in the fields of education, science, art, literature, and other disciplines of human knowledge has passed on these principles.

It is not surprising then that today when the circumstances that our economy is going through have repercussions throughout society, the National Library continues to receive state support and attention.

The close relationship between the process of Cuban culture and our National Library occurs, of course, in multiple ways. Important intellectuals have served as directors of various stages and it should also be borne in mind that here is preserved and disseminated the valuable stationery of the greatest Cuban writers and polygraphers, such as Julián del Casal, Alejo Carpentier, Nicolás Guillén, Lezama Lima, among many others, even of the most recent contemporaneity. There are also essential documents to know and study our political, social and economic history, national and foreign incunabula, collections of recorded music, art books and science and technology.

The libraries of the country together with our National Library, are a fundamental pillar of the intellectual and spiritual life of the Homeland, let us rely on them and on the vast institutional system of culture created by the Revolution, to unite the necessary forces with which to successfully face the ethical and, therefore, political duties that we have ahead. But we cannot do that in a partial, segmented, exclusively technical or administrative way; we have to do it encouraged, oriented and inspired by the beautiful spiritual heritage bequeathed to us by the greatest of Cuban intellectuals, and the most important politician of the country in the nineteenth century, José Martí.

Cuban librarians with their humility, their creativity, their talent, will be at the forefront of the generous effort to promote Cuban revolutionary thought in this new millennium in our libraries.

We will continue to be summoned in this crusade for the multiplication of knowledge, reading, and culture, because that is the definitive guarantee of victory, let us always remember, what José Martí told us, wars go forward on paper roads.

[1] Statement made by Ana Margarita Oliva, Specialist of the Cuban Room of the José Martí National Library, in her text "Honor, honor."