A grain of poetry suffices to season a century.
--José Martí, poet, journalist, and freedom fighter (1853-1895)
(48:7.22) Only a poet can discern poetry in the commonplace prose of routine existence.
(143:7.3) Profound philosophy should be relieved by rhythmic poetry.
(195:7.15) Poetry is an effort to escape from material realities to spiritual values.
José Julián Martí Pérez was a Cuban poet, philosopher, essayist, journalist, translator, professor, and publisher, who is considered a Cuban national hero because of his role in the liberation of his country. He was also an important figure in Latin American literature. He was very politically active and is considered an important revolutionary philosopher and political theorist. Through his writings and political activity, he became a symbol of Cuba's bid for independence from the Spanish Empire in the 19th century, and is referred to as the "Apostle of Cuban Independence". From adolescence, he dedicated his life to the promotion of liberty, political independence for Cuba, and intellectual independence for all Spanish Americans; his death was used as a cry for Cuban independence from Spain by both the Cuban revolutionaries and those Cubans previously reluctant to start a revolt.
Born in Havana, Spanish Empire, Martí began his political activism at an early age. He traveled extensively in Spain, Latin America, and the United States, raising awareness and support for the cause of Cuban independence. His unification of the Cuban émigré community, particularly in Florida, was crucial to the success of the Cuban War of Independence against Spain. He was a key figure in the planning and execution of this war, as well as the designer of the Cuban Revolutionary Party and its ideology. He died in military action during the Battle of Dos Ríos on May 19, 1895. Martí is considered one of the great turn-of-the-century Latin American intellectuals. His written works include a series of poems, essays, letters, lectures, novel, and a children's magazine.
He wrote for numerous Latin American and American newspapers; he also founded a number of newspapers. His newspaper Patria was an important instrument in his campaign for Cuban independence. After his death, one of his poems from the book, Versos Sencillos (Simple Verses) was adapted to the song "Guantanamera", which has become the definitive patriotic song of Cuba. The concepts of freedom, liberty, and democracy are prominent themes in all of his works, which were influential on the Nicaraguan poet Rubén Darío and the Chilean poet Gabriela Mistral. Following the 1959 Cuban Revolution, Martí's ideology became a major driving force in Cuban politics. He is also regarded as Cuba's "martyr."