José Martí biography
Sometimes called the Apostle of the Cuban Revolution, José Martí was born on January 28, 1853. He showed a talent for writing and revolutionary politics at an early age. First exiled from Cuba in 1871, Martí spent much of his life abroad. In 1895, he returned to Cuba to fight for its independence. He died on the battlefield.
Born to poor Spanish immigrant parents, José Martí showed a talent for writing early on. He had several poems published by the time he was 15. At 16, Martí also proved to be a revolutionary in the making. He supported efforts to cut ties with Spain, which held Cuba as one of its colonies at the time. Begun in 1868, this conflict between Cuban nationalists and Spanish loyalists became known as the Ten Years' War. To advance his cause, Martí created a newspaper, La Patria Libre. He also wrote several significant poems during this time, including "Abdala," in which he dreamed of liberation.
Martí was arrested and sentenced to six years in a political prison, reportedly for criticizing a pro-Spanish friend. After serving six months of hard labor, he was released and deported to Spain. There Martí published Political Imprisonment in Cuba, about the harsh treatment he received in jail. He also furthered his education, studying law first at Central University of Madrid and later at University of Saragossa. Martí completed his degree in 1874.
Living in Latin America
By 1875, Martí had moved to Mexico, where he continued to campaign for Cuban independence. He contributed to several newspapers there and became involved in Mexico City's artistic community. But he soon became disenchanted with the country's government, and moved to Guatemala in 1877. Martí became a college professor at the Universidad Nacional, where he taught literature, history and philosophy.
Martí returned to Cuba when a general amnesty was declared in 1878 after the Ten Years' War had ended. He tried to practice law there, but the government refused to let him. Instead Martí found work as a teacher.
Another uprising, known as the Little War, erupted the following year. Farmers, slaves and others clashed with Spanish troops in Santiago de Cuba. Martí was arrested and charged with conspiracy in the wake of the rebellion. Again, the revolutionary writer was forced to leave his homeland.
Life in the United States
By 1881, Martí had settled in New York City. He wrote in both English and Spanish for several newspapers, including a regular column for Buenos Aires' La Nación. Tackling a variety of subjects, Martí was as skilled at social and political commentary as he was at literary criticism. He wrote well-received essays about such poets as Walt Whitman and he shared his impressions of the United States as a correspondent. In one of his most famous essays, "Our America," he called for Latin American countries to be united. Martí suggested that these countries learn from the United States, but establish governments that are based on their cultures and needs.
In addition to writing, Martí worked as a diplomat for several Latin American countries. He served as a consul for Uruguay, Paraguay and Argentina. However, he never forgot about Cuba during his time abroad. Traveling to different cities, Martí developed ties with other Cubans living in exile in the United States.
In 1892, Martí became a delegate of the Cuban Revolutionary Party. He worked hard on plans for a revolution in his native country. Among his ideas for a new Cuban government, Martí sought to prevent any one class or group from taking total control of the country. He also wanted to overthrow the existing leadership quickly, to prevent the United States from intervening in the matter. While he admired much about the United States, Martí had concerns that Cuba's northern neighbor would try to take over the island.
A Failed Revolution
To free Cuba, Martí joined forces with two nationalist generals from the Ten Years' War, Máximo Gómez and Antonio Maceo. He raised funds from Cuban exiles and political organizations to support their efforts. On January 31, 1895, Martí left New York City to make his way to Cuba. He and his fellow nationalist supporters arrived in Cuba on April 11 and began the fight for independence.
Unfortunately for him, Martí did not last long on the battlefield. He died on May 19 during some fighting in Dos Rios. After his death, his compatriots continued their war against the Spanish, but the country did not achieve its independence until years later.
Through his life and writings, Martí served as an inspiration for revolutionaries around the world. Cuban leader Fidel Castro has called him an important influence on his own revolution in Cuba decades later. Although Martí once was sent into exile for his political activities, he is now considered a national hero in Cuba.
Martí married Carmen Zayas Bazán in 1877. The two met while Martí was in Mexico. The couple had a son together, named José.