Photo: Scott Braley
José Martí, political activist, poet, journalist and teacher, was born in Cuba. His father was Spanish and his mother was from the Canary Islands. From a young age he was politically involved and came into conflict with the government, doing 6 years hard labor at 16 years old for anti-government activity, and then was deported to Spain.
He spent time in the US where he mobilized support for the Cuban revolution amongst Cuban exiles. He was against the annexation of Cuba to the US, being proposed in the 1880s mostly by middle class Cubans and supported by the US. He said, 'In the USA, the causes of unity instead of coalescing, have become dispersed; humanity's problems, instead of being solved, have been increased, democracy has been corrupted and undermined and has given birth to menacing poverty and hatred.'
Martí believed that the Cuban liberation struggle could only be built by the working class. During the 10 Year War, some leaders had relied on rich Cuban emigres and ignored the black working class. In the US, much of his work was based amongst the black Cuban tobacco workers who had emigrated to find work. He said, "There is no danger of war between the races in Cuba. Man means more than white man, mulatto or black man. The souls of white men and negroes have risen together from the battlefield where they have fought and died for Cuba."
He was instrumental in founding the Cuban Revolutionary Party in 1892, which was a broad-based movement. He fought for the unity of Latin America against US imperialism: "I have lived inside the monster and know its entrails." In 1895, he, Maceo and Gomez launched an invasion of Cuba. Martí was shot and killed. An unfinished letter to a friend spoke of him risking his life to stop the US taking control of Cuba.
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