Who was José Martí? Marti affectionately called by the Cuban people the “Apostle of the revolution” was born in 1853 and was killed in combat against the Spanish colonial troops in 1895. He was a founder and central leader of the Cuban Revolutionary Party, the organization that led the struggle of the Cuban people against Spanish colonialism.
Marti built and led the organization based on the principal that the liberation struggle had to involve the oppressed and had to be for the benefit of the oppressed. He fought for a non racial movement and future independent Cuba. He fought for greater rights of women. He foresaw, before all other Latin American leaders, the rise of the United States of America, as a new imperialist power that was threatening to pounce on its southern neighbors. He explained that Cuba had to stand in the front lines to prevent this from happening. Following in the footsteps of Simon Bolivar, Marti had a pan americanist perspective, seeking to unite all the peoples of Latin America. Above all, Marti was a genuine humanist seeking to advance the struggle for a world that would respect the human rights of all. This was reflected not only in his support of oppressed and exploited sectors in Cuba or in the rest of Latin America, but also in his identification with the struggles of rail workers, tobacco workers and others in the United States itself. They too were part of his America.
Fidel Castro and the other leaders of the Cuban revolution that triumphed in 1959 have always pointed to the example of Marti as the guiding light of the future generations of revolutionaries. In a sense, the ideals of Marti were redeemed with the 1959 victory of the workers and farmers of Cuba.
Marti was not only a political leader but he was also a poet and an educator. He was an early proponent of what later became known as progressive education and this at a time of absolute scholasticism. He argued that education had to be for all if a nation was to rise out of ignorance and be truly independent. He argued that the education of children had to be tied to the experimental sciences, that it had to be directly tied to farming and other means of production, that it had to be coeducational, and that it had to actively present the history and culture of the entire world as belonging to every child. With this as an aim he wrote a series of articles for children that covered world history from the ancient native American cultures, to Vietnam and other Asian cultures to ancient Greece and Rome. For Marti this was the property of the whole world’s children.
Marti’s legacy remains relevant and alive today.
José Martí Cultural Association, Greece