Happy Birthday

jose marti

Happy Birthday, José Marti, Cuban Poet and Revolutionary

January 28, 2010
by Sarah Amandolare
For most of his life, José Marti moved from place to place, collecting the experiences and knowledge that would influence his work as a writer, revolutionary and educator. He was passionate in every undertaking, whether organizing the Cuban independence movement, fiercely objecting dictatorships and government abuses in Mexico and Guatemala, or studying philosophy and law. His devotion to Cuba’s freedom and his own free spirit resulted in a lifetime of intriguing achievements.

Early Days

Born in Havana, Cuba, on Jan. 28, 1853, José Marti had his first foray into political activism at age 15, helping to set up an anti-colonial newspaper that led to his arrest within a year. Spanish authorities convicted Marti of anti-government activity, and handed him a six-year sentence of “hard labor in a quarry,” reports The My Hero Project. He served just three years, however, before being deported to Spain. There, Marti entered the University of Zaragoza to study law.

In the years following his graduation from university, Marti’s rebellious, revolutionary ways were revealed. He was banished from Mexico City, Guatemala, Spain and Venezuela for opposing military leadership, government abuses, colonialist authorities and dictatorship. But along the way, he honed his philosophical standpoints, working as a journalist and literature professor, and spending some time in New York, according to The My Hero Project.

Notable Accomplishments

Throughout his life, Marti never lost sight of his ultimate passion: promoting Cuban independence. In doing so, he would take on various roles, including teacher, diplomat and poet. His first poetry volume, “Versos Libres” (Free Verses), was published in 1878. More than a decade later, Marti’s “Versos Sencillos” was published, the first poem of which became his most notable work and “an unofficial national anthem for Cuba,” according to Bella Online.

Although he was killed in 1895 during the Battle of Dos Rios in Cuba’s war for independence from Spain, Marti was “remembered as a national hero as well as Cuba’s unofficial national poet.” Cuba was eventually successful in the war, as well, says Bella Online.

Marti is also praised for his varied interests and his ability “to move comfortably in the most diverse fields,” according to the Free Cuba Foundation. His writings reflect that worldliness and display “the universality and timelessness of his thought,” supreme among them that Cuba’s freedom was crucial to the well-being of Latin America.

The Rest of the Story

The UNESCO International José Marti Prize awards “an activity of outstanding merit in accordance with the ideals and spirit” of the revolutionary writer, particularly an activity that unifies Latin America and the Caribbean. The prize was instituted in 1994.

A bronze statue of Marti sculpted by Anna Vaughn Hyatt Huntington was presented to New York City by the Cuban government. Marti first arrived in New York in 1880, fleeing Spanish authorities, and while there remained an active advocate for Cuban independence. The statue, which stands in Central Park, is captured in this set of Flickr photos.

The childhood home of José Marti is a museum and National Monument in Havana, Cuba. Visitors can see the bedrooms of Marti’s parents, Leonor Pérez and Mariano Martí, which contain items from their son’s youth, according to Web Havana.

Most Recent Features