José Martí Pérez (1853-95) was a distinguished revolutionary patriot and is considered to be Cuba's national hero.  From a very young age, he began to demonstrate his social and  patriotic concerns and his love for independence, which led him to be sentenced and sent to political prison when he was 16 years old.  On January 15, 1875, he was banished to Spain. After arriving in Madrid, he published his essay Political Imprisonment in Cuba, which constitutes a well-grounded, forceful denunciation of the atrocities of the colonial regime. 

During his forced exile he travels to France, Mexico and Guatemala.  In the two latter countries, as well as in Spain, he does outstanding work as an intellectual.  He returned to Cuba availing himself of the general amnesty decreed at the end of the Ten Year’s War.  He participated, along with other patriots, in the conspiracy that resulted in the so-called “Guerra Chica” or Little War. 

Towards the end of 1879 he is once again deported to Spain and there he continues his campaign to denounce the atrocities of the colonial regime.  From Spain he traveled to New York  where he devoted himself to promoting the ideal of independence among the Cuban emigrants.  After a brief sojourn in Venezuela in 1881, he returned to the United States where he lived uninterruptedly until 1892.  During that long period, he devoted himself completely to the work of organizing the war in Cuba and he founded the Cuban Revolutionary Party, which would bring together all the patriots who had emigrated and those who had stayed on the island, and of which he was elected president by the unanimous vote of the delegates. 

He embarked on the Titanic task of bringing together all the patriotic forces in favor of independence and of organizing what he called “The Necessary War”.  Despite huge obstacles, the war is resumed on February 24, 1895. 

In the Montecristi Manifesto, a document he signed along with Máximo Gómez on March 25, 1895, and which would turn out to be the program of the revolutionary movement, he clearly states “that the war is not against the Spaniard but against the colonial system and government”, he condemns the cultivation of a single crop, racism, the scorn for the indigenous masses, the concentration of culture in the cities and other problems existing in the American republics and expresses his confidence that the Cuban people would know how to build a country free of all these imperfections. 

The extraordinary clearness and certainty of  Martí’s thinking enabled Fidel Castro to proclaim him, more than half a century afterwards, the mastermind of the new stage of the struggle for true independence initiated on July 26, 1953 . 

After signing the Montecristi Manifesto, Martí left for Cuba to demonstrate that he was not only a man of ideas, but a leader capable of laying down his life for his principles.  On April 11, 1895, he landed off a small boat, along with Máximo Gómez, on a remote part of eastern Cuba known as Playitas de Cajobabo.  After a long trek they manage to establish contact with the revolutionary forces.  Taking into consideration his extraordinary contributions to the cause of independence and his unquestionable leadership, he is conferred the rank of Major General, the highest rank in the Liberation Army.  

On May 19, 1895, this outstanding intellectual and brilliant Cuban thinker fell in Dos Ríos, in eastern Cuba, in a battle against Spanish colonialist troops.


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