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José Julián Marti y Pérez was born in Havana in January 28, 1853, to Spanish parents Mariano Marti Navarro and Leonor Pérez Cabrera; he was followed by seven sisters. Showing artistic talent as a youngster, he enrolled in a school for painters and sculptors as a teenager. Unable to find success as an artist, he soon turned to writing, and by the age of fiteen his editorials and poems were being published in local newspapers.
In 1869, Marti wrote an editorial supporting Cuban rebels fighting for independence from Spain, and was ubsequently convicted of treason and sedition and sentenced to six years labor. His parents intervened and after one year, Josés sentence was reduced but he was exiled to Spain. The chains in which he was held would scar his legs for the rest of his life.
While in Spain, Marti studied law at Central University of Madris and the University of Saragossa, eventually graduating with a law degree, in 1874. He also continued to write, mostly about the deteriorating situation in Cuba. In 1875, he went to Mexico, where he was reunited with his family. In Mexico, he was able to support himself as a writer, publishing several poems, translations, and a play.
In 1877, he returned to Cuba under an assumed name, but remained for less than a month before heading to Guatemala, where he found work as a professor of literature, history, and philosophy at Universidad Nacional. In that same year, he married Carmen Zayas Bazán, with whom he had one son. He only remained in Guatemala for one year before resigning his position as professor in protest over the arbitrary firing of a fellow Cuban from the faculty.
In 1878, after a general amnesty was declared, Marti returned to Cuba. Not allowed to practice law, he resumed teaching. He had only been back in Cuba for about a year when he was again accused of conspiring with others to overthrow Spanish rule and exiled to Spain; his wife and son, however, remained in Cuba. By 1881 he was living in New York City.
While living in New York City, Marti served at various times as consul for Uruguay, Paraguay and Argentina, worked as a correspondent and editorial writer for several New York and foreign newspapers, and produced several small volumes of poetry. He never relinquished his dream of a free Cuba, however, spending much time talking to fellow Cuban exiles in the city, trying to raise support for an independence movement. By 1892 he had dedicated himself exclusively to planning and organizing what became Cuba's third war of independence, including establishment of the Cuban Revolutionary Party, which raised funds for the war and established a Cuban government that would take over when the war was over.
In 1894, Martí and a handful of fellow exiles attempted to make their way back to Cuba and start a revolution, but the expedition failed. On April 11, 1895, a larger group of exiles, led by military strategists Máximo Gómez and Antonio Maceo Grajales, landed on the island and quickly took to the hills, amassing a small army as they did so. Marti was killed in one of the first confrontations of the uprising, on May 19, 1895, at Dos Rios. After some initial gains by the rebels, the insurrection failed and Cuba would not be free from Spain until after the Spanish-American War of 1898.
This page was last updated on 01/20/2017.