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José Martí author's photo

José Martí (1853 - 1895), Cuban patriot, statesman, professor, and poet, dedicated his life to the cause of Cuban independence from Spain. He was first imprisoned for his revolutionary writings at age sixteen when a court martial sentenced him to hard labor and later deported him to Spain. During this first exile from Cuba, Martí obtained his doctorate in law, philosophy, and literature at the Universidad de Zaragoza, while continuing to support the Cuban separatist movement with his writings from abroad. This became a pattern of life for him. As he later moved from country to country (among them Guatemala, Mexico, Venezuela, Haiti, and the United States) and made intermittent visits to his homeland, he persisted in his feverish literary, journalistic, and political activities. His varied endeavors include the publication of a children's magazine and the foundation of the Cuban Revolutionary Party.

He published his first book of poetry, Ismaelillo, in 1882, followed by Versos sencillos in 1891 (its opening poem became the song "Guantanamera," later popularized by Pete Seeger) and the posthumous Versos libres. A novel, a play, and dozens of essays also figure among his works. By 1894, Martí had become convinced that a popular military uprising would be the only way for Cuba to gain independence from Spain and to maintain independence from the United States. Determined to lead a successful revolution, he sailed from Florida in April 1895 with Major General Máximo Gómez Baez and a band of volunteers. The following month, Martí died in one of the first skirmishes of an insurrection that would lead to freedom from colonial Spanish rule.

Today, Martí is considered one of Cuba's most important political and intellectual historical figures, a revolutionary whose zeal and dedication helped to birth the nation, and who served as a model for revolutionaries throughout Latin America during the 20th century.

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