Jose Marti, one of the all time great revolutionaries of the world, was born on 28th January, 1853 in Havana. He lived only 42 years and was martyred by Spanish colonial bullet on 19th May 1895.But in short span of 42 years life; Jose Marti created such wonders that one just feels stunned by his talent and activities. Apart from being a revolutionary organiser, he wrote so much in his short life that it took 27 big volumes to publish, as explained by the editor and Marti scholar Juan Marinello. He was a major poet with at least four volumes of poetry to his credit, also wrote an autobiographical novel, plays, essays on literature and politics, newspaper reports, apart from organising Cuban revolutionary party for launching armed struggle to free Cuba from Spanish colonialism.
According to Juan Marinello, Jose Marti happened to be one of the most high ranking, authentic, great and profound historical figures of Latin America.Along with Simon Bolivar( Venezula), San Martin(Argentina),Miguel Hidalgo(Mexico), Moroles, Sucre and Toussain, he is considered as father of independence struggles of their people and untiring warrior against colonial domination. Marti is held in such high esteem by the people of Cuba that he is considered the embodiment of an exemplary son of the country. References to some of these heroes can be found in Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s novel, based on Bolivar’s life-‘The General in his Labryinth’
Marti was son of a modest official of Spanish Govt. in Cuba, his home was typical of a poor child’s dwelling in colonial factory. In one of his poem-‘Yoke and Star’, he depicts his house as ‘When I was born without light….’ Inspired by his teacher and poet Mendive, Marti became non-conformist even before he attained adolescence. He published his play ‘Abdala’, full of patriotic zeal and yearning for liberty.He was condemned to forced labour by Spanish colonialists at the age of 16 years and at breaking down of his health, was exiled to Spain in 1871, at the age of 18 years. In Spain, Marti joined Madrid University for studies and produced polemical speech-‘The Spanish Republic in the face of the Cuban Revolution’, which was published in 1873 at the age of just 20 years.His second literary work ‘Adultera’ was published while he studied law at the University
From Spain , Marti moves to Mexico, where he becomes a dedicated lecturer and journalist,he wrote for stage and became a drama critic. He left Mexico, when oppressive regime of Diaz took over, but the last letter before he took fatal Spanish bullet, was addressed to ‘The friend of Mexico’-Manuel Marcado.
In 1877, Marti visited Cuba and Guatemala. In Guatemala, Marti wrote his autobiographical novel-‘Amistad Funesta'(Unfortunate Friendship), though not considered his best literary writing by critics, but this novel depicts intimate personality of Marti and gives vivid account of Guatemala’s life, he also warns Central American people about dangers being faced by them. In 1878, Marti returned to Cuba, when the ‘Peace of Zanjon’ was signed, but he clearly opined that Cuba can only be liberated through armed struggle. He is again subjected to oppression and is exiled again. He leaves Cuba, passes through Paris on way to Spain and then moves to New York in 1880. Same year he visited Venezuela and stayed there for six months, before leaving for New York, he wrote–‘Venezuela, give me the opportunity to serve you.. I am your child..’
During the last fourteen years of his life, Marti lived in New York, he made the clear resolution to dedicate himself wholeheartedly to the task of freeing Cuba. Gradually he won over the devotion of fellow countrymen and became the unquestionable leader of the emancipatory struggle of the country. Marti founded Cuban Revolutionary party in 1891 after gaining the confidence of Cuban people, which became fundamental instrument for his armed struggle .
In days ahead, Marti took a nerve wrecking pilgrimage , a continuous restless journey through United States and Latin American countries. He mopped up valuable consent and contributions from people of Costa Rica and Dominican republic for the cause of ‘unavoidable war’. He visited Mexico for last time in 1894.Marti landed in Cuba on 11th April 1895 and joined the insurgent troops as one of the many other soldiers. He became an example of self sacrifice and discipline. While mounted on horse or during camp nights, he wrote hurried notes, which are work of great depth and beauty showing the virtues of a great writer.On 19th May, 1895, a Spanish bullet ended his life at a place called Dos Rios, in Oriente de Cuba.
In his New York office, Marti left extensive and varied work so wide that it took its editor to compile these in 27 big volumes, an unimaginable task for anyone is short life span of just 42 years, only a genius could do it. Marti’s austere revolutionary duty never stood in the way of his work as writer. His qualities as journalist during New York stay show the qualities of highly sensitive and supreme artistic manifestations. He sent his articles to ‘The Nation’ of Buenos Aires(Argentina), ‘La America’ and ‘El Economist Americano’ of New York, ‘Universal Magazine’ and ‘Partido Liberal’ of Mexico,’Revista Venezuela’ of Carcas and ‘Republic’ of Honduras and so many other journals of the Caribbean and Latin America.
Apart from political and journalistic writings, Marti devoted lot of time to literary and art criticism. His literary writings filled many volumes and his analysis of world literary figures like-Darwin, Carlyle, Wilde, Flaubert, Spencer and Pushkin are considered masterpieces. Marti has great attachment with France and appreciated its enlightened writers like Victor Hugo, Luis Blance, Balzac, Emile Zola, Rousseau, Baudlaire,, Gautier and many more.
Litrary writins of Marti include poetry, plays, essays, fiction and literary criticism.His first poetic play ‘Abdala’ was published, when he was just 16 years old.His second play ‘Adultera’ was written in exile.In Guatemala, Marti wrote an Indian drama called ‘Patriaa Y libertad’.Marti’s anthologies include ‘The Little Ismael’, Simple Verses’ and ‘Free Verses’. There are many references to India in Marti’s literary writings. There are refernces to Gautam Buddha as ‘outstanding liberatorof humanity’. He wrote about India’s cultural influence on the wise men of Egypt, he refers to Tajmahal as ‘pure as milk’. He refers to Ramayna, and describes The Jatakas as loveable philosophy..
In India, Peoples Publishing House , New Delhi published ‘Remembering Marti’, a commemorative volume in 1995, at the occasion of Marti’s hundredth martyrdom anniversary. In this small volume Olga Chamario Trias and Victor Ramirez, Cuban diplomats in Delhi paid glowing tributes to the memory fo Jose Marti by describing him as ‘ The “Author” still at the Front’.First declaration of Havana in 1960, after the revolution led by Fidel Castro and Che Guevara begins with reference to Marti and 1976, when the first constitution of socialist Cuba was passed in National Assembly reads ‘We declare our will that the law of laws of the Republic be guided by the strong desire of Jose Marti.At long last achieved:’I want the fundamental of our republic to be the tribute of Cubans to the full dignity of Man’.Fidel Castro is referred to be having the qualities of Marti in his personality.
‘Our America’ is considered to be the most significant writing of Marti.Marti refers to ‘weapons of mind’ in this essay as conquers of all others and describes ‘Barricades of ideas worse than barricades of stone’! Marti emphasises on self criticism in this seminal essay–‘Nations should live in continual self criticism, because criticism is healthy, but always with one heart and one mind. Go down to the unfortunates and take them in your arms!’ Marti attacks racist and reactionary rightwing fundamentalists by his scathing words–‘The soul emantes, equal and eternal, from bodies distinct in shape and colour. Whosoever foments and propagates antagonism and hate between races, sins against Humanity’. Yes this is the America of Martis, Bolivars, Martins, which counters the America of Bushes and Reagans…The present generation of Latin America is living up to the ideals of its progressive heroes in Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Brazil and spreading to all other lands of Marti’s ‘Our America’. 21st century belongs to this America and not to Washington ruled America!Amen!
Prof. Chaman Lal
Visiting Professor on Hindi chair
The University of the West Indies, Trinidad Tobago
Prof. And former Chairperson
Centre of Indian Languages, JNU, New Delhi (India)
Prof.email@example.com, mob. 1868-3692687