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Feb 07

Jose Marti: For the Love of Cuba

Posted by: lisa

Tagged in: Untagged 

Jose Marti

Political and literary figure of Cuba and Latin America

Military leader of Cuban insurgent army

19th century revolutionary activist, dedicated political theorist, prolific writer, poet, journalist, and convincing orator

“The figure on whom the burden of proving that an independent Cuba would be a black and white nation, at ease with itself, was Jose Marti, a hero of both Cuban and Latin American history” (Gott, p83).

In order to understand Marti one needs to know him not only as a political man but as a poet. His life was intertwined with his literary pursuits. He wanted his writings created rigorous literary criticism during his time but now young Cuban intellectuals and writers are slowly beginning to give way and reappraisal. Marti is the only bona fide poet amongst other writers and poets; he figures securely in the canon of Latin American literature on his own merits as poet, orator, essayist, and chronicler. His strength was also in journalism. He had no peer as an orator in an age when oratory was a highly respected literary genre. As a political organizer, he had no equal either. He was charged with idealism, sympathy for downtrodden, and a pan-American that has found many followers. His political program was hortative than practical and fit to encourage Cubans to battle yet not detailed enough to run a country in peacetime. His death brought unity and closure to all of his endeavors by eliminating the frail physical vessel that contained them and by giving them transcendental meaning on an ideal literary plane.

Fuera Del Mundo

Fuera del mundo que batalla y luce 
Sin recordar a su infeliz cautivo,
A un trabajo servil sujeto vivo
Que a la muerte temprano me conduce.
Mas hay junto a mi mesa una ventana
Por donde entra la luz; y no daría
Este rincón de la ventana mía
¡Por la mayor esplendidez humana!—


Another area in which he excelled in was in his production of children’s literature with a view to the development of better citizens for his imagined Cuban republic. His writings consisted of spiritualism, mystical nationalism, and compassion for the poor and abused. His idea of a free Cuba was ruled by love and justice, free of prejudice, and oppression.

“Yet Marti’s immolation was in the name not just of freedom but of his country’s independence and birth as a nation in a war that he had himself feverishly planned. He set an unsurpassable standard for future poets, who would work rebelliousness into their verse but were not quite ready to make the ultimate sacrifice. In Latin America, Marti represents an idealized fusion of politics and poetry.”

His writings and views greatly influenced Cuba and societies commodities such as money. Havana’s airport is named after Marti, as the national library and countless other buildings and institutions, and his face appears on bills and on coins. A museum exists in every town and a white plaster bust outside every school room.


Within his writings the love of Cuba and love of death drove him inexorably to the place where two motherlands- Cuba and the night came together and a moment where all would acquire a meaning too transcendental to express with mere words. Death sealed life and poetry as a unit.

(Example: War Diaries/ Diarios de Campana)

His writing gave Cubans a sense of centeredness and a significance that they have not lost against the Spanish. His writings reflect the early Cuban life.


I Dream Awake

Day and night
I always dream with open eyes
And on top of the foaming waves
Of the wide turbulent sea,
And on the rolling
Desert sands,
And merrily riding on the gentle neck
Of a mighty lion,
Monarch of my heart,
I always see a floating child
Who is calling me!





Born in Havana in 1853 A child of Spanish immigrants. He was killed in Cuba at the age of 42 in May of 1895. He worked for Latin America’s independence struggle against Spain and lived for much of his life as an exile in the United States. “I know the Monster, because I have lived in its lair- an my weapon is only the slingshot of David.” These were almost his last words and what he most remembered for.

As he has prophesied:

"Don't in darkness let me lie
With traitors to come undone:
I am good, and as the good die,
I will die face to the sun!"

January 1869, he helped publish a newspaper Patria Libre. It printed his romantic comments on the rebel cause at the young age of 16. He was identified as subversive so he was arrested on charges of criticizing a friend and was sentenced to 6 years in prison. In February 1871, he was exiled to Spain where he studied philosophy and law at the University of Madrid.

After studying he traveled to Europe then established himself in Mexico (where his parents were living in exile). Here is where he also saw the inequalities and mistreatment between the indigenous people and the Spanish. He was outspoken of racial equality for both whites and blacks! Due to the Pact of Zanjon of 1878, he was able to return to Cuba. This pact included an amnesty for political exiles. He then joined the Cuban Revolutionary Committee where he later becomes the president of this committee and it was based in New York. He was then charged with conspiracy during the preparation for the Guerra Chiquita in 1879, so he was once again exile and was sent to Spain. That did not stop him so he went to New York for the next 15 years of his life. He worked closely with other Cuban exiles on plans to re-launch the independence war. All of his political instincts favored a civilian leadership. Being exiled from his country did not stop him from speaking up for injustices. He was the consul of Uruguay, a regular commentator on the American affairs for La Nacion, the daily paper of Buenos Aires, established the Liga de Instruccion ( a training school for the revolutionary cadres of the future), and in 1892 established the Cuban Revolutionary Party (an independence movement to be financed by its individual supporters). The party envisaged a brief and generous war. Towards the end of his life he abandoned his work as a journalist, gave up his newspaper columns, and relinquished his consular posts in order to work full time in organizing a secret revolutionary war.

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Yo Soy Un Hombre Sincero


A sincere man am I
From the land where palm trees grow,
And I want before I die
My soul's verses to bestow.
I'm a traveller to all parts,
And a newcomer to none:
I am art among the arts,
With the mountains I am one.
I know how to name and class
All the strange flowers that grow;
I know every blade of grass,
Fatal lie and sublime woe.
I have seen through dead of night
Upon my head softly fall,
Rays formed of the purest light
From beauty celestial.
I have seen wings that were surging
From beautiful women's shoulders,
And seen butterflies emerging
From the refuse heap that moulders.
I have known a man to live
With a dagger at his side, 
And never once the name give
Of she by whose hand he died.
Twice, for an instant, did I
My soul's reflection espy:
Twice: when my poor father died
And when she bade me good-bye.
I trembled once, when I flung
The vineyard gate, and to my dread,
The wicked hornet had stung
My little girl on the forehead.
I rejoiced once and felt lucky
The day that my jailer came
To read the death warrant to me
That bore his tears and my name.
I hear a sigh across the earth,
I hear a sigh over the deep:
It is no sign reaching my hearth,
But my son waking from sleep.
If they say I have obtained
The pick of the jeweller's trove,
A good friend is what I've gained
And I have put aside love.
I have seen across the skies
A wounded eagle still flying;
I know the cubby where lies
The snake of its venom dying.
I know that the world is weak
And must soon fall to the ground,
Then the gentle brook will speak
Above the quiet profound.
While trembling with joy and dread,
I have touched with hand so bold
A once-bright star that fell dead
From heaven at my threshold.
On my brave heart is engraved
The sorrow hidden from all eyes:
The son of a land enslaved,
Lives for it, suffers and dies.
All is beautiful and right,
All is as music and reason;
And all, like diamonds, is light
That was coal before its season.
I know when fools are laid to rest
Honor and tears will abound,
And that of all fruits, the best
Is left to rot in holy ground.
Without a word, the pompous muse
I've set aside, and understood:
From a withered branch, I choose
To hang my doctoral hood.


Yo soy un hombre sincero
De donde crece la palma,
Y antes de morirme quiero
Echar mis versos del alma. 
Yo vengo de todas partes,
Y hacia todas partes voy:
Arte soy entre las artes,
En los montes, monte soy.
Yo sé los nombres extraños 
De las yerbas y las flores,
Y de mortales engaños,
Y de sublimes dolores.
Yo he visto en la noche oscura
Llover sobre mi cabeza
Los rayos de lumbre pura
De la divina belleza.
Alas nacer vi en los hombros
De las mujeres hermosas:
Y salir de los escombros,
Volando las mariposas.
He visto vivir a un hombre
Con el puñal al costado,
Sin decir jamás el nombre
De aquella que lo ha matado.
Rápida, como un reflejo,
Dos veces vi el alma, dos:
Cuando murió el pobre viejo,
Cuando ella me dijo adiós. 
Temblé una vez —en la reja,
A la entrada de la viña,—
Cuando la bárbara abeja
Picó en la frente a mi niña. 
Gocé una vez, de tal suerte
Que gocé cual nunca:—cuando
La sentencia de mi muerte
Leyó el alcalde llorando.
Oigo un suspiro, a través 
De las tierras y la mar,
Y no es un suspiro,—es
Que mi hijo va a despertar.
Si dicen que del joyero
Tome la joya mejor,
Tomo a un amigo sincero
Y pongo a un lado el amor.
Yo he visto al águila herida
Volar al azul sereno,
Y morir en su guarida
La vibora del veneno.
Yo sé bien que cuando el mundo
Cede, lívido, al descanso,
Sobre el silencio profundo
Murmura el arroyo manso.
Yo he puesto la mano osada,
De horror y júbilo yerta,
Sobre la estrella apagada
Que cayó frente a mi puerta.
Oculto en mi pecho bravo
La pena que me lo hiere:
El hijo de un pueblo esclavo
Vive por él, calla y muere.
Todo es hermoso y constante,
Todo es música y razón, 
Y todo, como el diamante,
Antes que luz es carbón. 
Yo sé que el necio se entierra
Con gran lujo y con gran llanto.
Y que no hay fruta en la tierra
Como la del camposanto.
Callo, y entiendo, y me quito
La pompa del rimador:
Cuelgo de un árbol marchito
Mi muceta de doctor.

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