Toward the end of the 1800's, the concept of Revolution dominated the minds of the Cuban people. At this time, Spain controlled the Cuban nation. Many would stand up to Spain, but few would have any influence on the predicament Cuba was facing. Of these few, the most influential character that would help Cuba eventually achieve independence was Jose Marti. The genius of his writings, the power of his speech, and his tenacious spirit inspired lead the Cuban people in its quest of independence
Jose Marti was born in Havana on January 28 1853 and spent his early years in Spain with his parents, Mariano and Lenor Marti. Upon his eventual return to Cuba, he was shocked by the way black slaves were treated and voiced his reaction. The beginning of the "Ten Year's War" led Marti to articulate his opinions in a more influential and dramatic manner, resulting in his imprisonment and a harsh leg injury.
This would all begin when, in January 1869, a Cuban student was slain when he wouldn't get out of a Spanish officer's path. By coincidence, the next day Marti's first poem premiered, when it was published with the help of a friend, Fermin Valdes Dominguez. The poem promoted dying for one's country. Because of this poem, Marti was arrested, imprisoned for four months and then exiled to Spain. Dominguez was also arrested. When the police searched Domiguez's house, they found a letter written by Marti and Dominguez that was addressed to one of their fellow classmates. It called the student a traitor because he joined the Spanish army. This letter was brought in as evidence against the men when they were charged with insurrection. When the judge questioned Marti and Dominguez, Marti gave a speech proclaiming Cuba's right to independence. Consequently, Dominguez spent six months in jail and Jose Marti was sentenced to six years.
Marti served his time in a military prison under hard labor. This labor led to a leg injury and Marti was forced to use a walking cane for the rest of his life. During his sentence, his mother was able to change his prison sentence to banishment to Spain. While in Spain he would write "El Presidio Politico en Cuba," exposing the horrors of political imprisonment.
After his release, Marti continued his education in Spain at the Universidad Central de Madrid, and then at the University of Zaragosa where he received degrees in law, philosophy, and letters. He lived briefly in France where his play, "Amor con Amor se Paga," written for the Spanish actress Concha Padilla, became a critical success.
In 1887, Jose Marti used his middle name, Julian, and his mother's maiden name, Perez, to smuggle himself into Cuba. While in Cuba he was unable to find a job and realized that the cause for Cuban Independence was lost at the moment. He left for Guatemala, where he found work as a professor of history and literature. During this time, he published many works that expressed strong opposition to slavery and espoused the equality of democracy. His revolutionary writings brought him many enemies and eventually his ability to influence the masses through his writings would result in the authorities asking Jose to leave Guatemala. However, prior to leaving the country, he asked Carmen Zayas Bazan, the daughter of wealthy Cuban exile, to marry him. It was a proposition which she gladly accepted.
Marti, with his wife Carmen, returned to Cuba in 1878 after the treaty, the "Pact of Zanjon," ended the "Ten Year War" and provided general discharge to political exiles. The pact, however, provided little change for Cubans and Marti was again banished for conspiring against the Spanish government at the beginning of "La Guerra Chiquita"(The Little War) on September 25th, 1879, shortly after the birth of his son. He escaped from a Spanish prison and emmigrated to New York where he lived for four years.
During this time he observed the racial attitudes that white Americans had towards blacks. Marti became distrustful of Americans and stated that "the white man's fear of the Negro would impede Cuba's independence." Most of the time that Marti would spend in America would be spent in the slums of New York City. Living in the United States led him to write "The Guilded Age" in which he would state, " Spain alienates the Cuban, a man who lives from hand to mouth and feels injustice deeply".
In the 1880's, Marti's political life continued to blossom and he served as consul of Uruguay, Paraguay, and Argentina and he wrote for newspapers such as The Hour and The Sun as well as a number of other South American newspapers. In this period he composed a world-renown poem found in his book Versos Sencillos, "I Cultivate a White Rose". In this poem he explains that regardless of the injustices and obstacles he faces in the struggle for Cuban independence, he will never be halted and his idealism will always remain strong.
Marti's journey for an independent and strong Cuba continued
in 1890 as he allied with a Cuban Negro exile, Rafael Serra, to form "La
Liga". This was an educational center devoted to the advancement
of black Cuban exiles. To Marti, the formation of "La Liga" represented
an important development in the Cuba revolutionary movement, since it was
a society for poor people, and any Cuban revolution had to base itself
on the support of the island's poor. Marti was extremely devoted to this
program and he taught a class every Thursday night. He expressed the reason
for the education of the exiles when he stated,
"And let us never forget that the greater the suffering, the greater
the right to justice, and that the prejudices of men and social inequalities cannot prevail over the equality which nature as created"
Between 1892 and 1895 Marti devoted himself exclusively to the cause of Cuban independence. He did this by raising political and financial support for Cuban exiles and organizing The Cuban Revolutionary Party. He began to publish "La Patria"; a newspaper devoted to Cuban freedom, and gained fame as a dedicated nationalist and fighter for Cuban independence, speaking about the war against Spain as a "crusade" against evil.
In 1894, Marti became impatient and believed that it was time for the revolution. He wrote the "Proclamation of Montercristi" that outlined the goals of Cuba's war of independence. It proclaimed that the revolution would bring new economic life to Cuba. Then, in the first battle against the Spanish Royalist army at Don Rios on May 19th 1895, Jose Marti was killed and his body was buried in Havana by the Spanish army.
Cubans remember Jose Marti's courage and persistence for independence of Cuba to this day. His beliefs and writings are still followed, especially by the Cuban president Fidel Castro. Jose Marti was a key figure to the victory of independence for Cuba. Jose Marti is not just a speaker and writer of Cuba and its independence, he is an immortal hero of all people struggling for freedom.
"Don José Martí," http://magic.hofstra.edu/~cruiz1/marti.html
"José Martí Literary event poetry readings and performance." Cuba Fest La Page http://www.cubafestla.com/martipoemeng.htm
"Marti, Jose Julian," Microsoft Encarta 98 Encyclopedia 1993-1997. Microsoft Corp.
Martinez, Lillian "José Martí - Cuban Statesman, Poet,
and Journalist (1853-1895)"
Patronato Jose Marti," Cuba Fest La Page. http://cubafestla.com/patronato.htm