When traveling to Cuba it is very likely you come across a statue or other image of Jose Marti. I wanted to find out what made this man so special and visited the modest house were Jose Marti was born and the impressive monument in his honor on La Plaza de la Revolution in Havana, Cuba. more...
When traveling to Cuba it is very likely you come across a statue or other image of Jose Marti. I wanted to find out what made this man so special and visited the modest house were Jose Marti was born and the impressive monument in his honor on La Plaza de la Revolution in Havana, Cuba.
Born on January 28th 1853, just a few blocks away from the Havana train station Jose Marti spend his early years in a small two-story building that now functions as a museum. Here one is given the opportunity to piece together a basic biography of the great intellectual, revolutionary and National Hero by means of a sober display of photos, copies of birth certificates and diploma’s, books, personal belongings and a family tree. Highlight are a lock of hair of the 4 year old boy, an inkpot and ivory pen used to sign the Manifesto de Montechristi which initiated the war against the Spaniards, an ivory pen-knife and some items Marti carried on him at the moment of his untimely death.
It becomes clear that from the moment Jose Marti could think for himself he wasted not a minute of his life. Marti was sentenced to a hard labor prison camp before being expelled from Cuba to Spain thanks to the interference of his father who was a policeman. He studied at the universities of Madrid and Zaragoza. He became an internationally acclaimed writer, his books including a book for children called La Edad de Oro (The golden age). Without having airplanes at his disposal, Marti traveled to Spain, Mexico (where he married his wife of Cuban decent), Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, the United States, Ireland, Great Britain, France and Venezuela. Leaving his mark in each of these countries. The husband and father of one son convinced the Cubans that there is no difference between life under Spanish or American rule and that true independence should be founded based on liberty, equality and democracy. His vision of a united Latin America still is a topic today, he organized an armed rebellion and although he knew he was no soldier Marti took up arms to silence his critics who blamed him for just providing a theoretical base for the revolt against the Spaniards. His death in combat made him immortal and an example to a whole nation. Marti’s only child, a son died young and childless.
I went on to check out the impressive “Memorial a Jose Marti “ on Havana’s largest square La Plaza de la Revolution. The monument consist out of a base with a 18 meter tall marble sculpture of Marti and a 109 meter tall tower with a star shaped foundation representing the star of Cuba’s national flag. Entering the monument you find exhibitions rooms in each 5 points of the star. Marti’s life as a revolutionary, intellectual, writer of children’s books, seasoned traveler and family man is illustrated by photo’s, letters, self-portraits and personal belongings of which a specimen of a bird named El Quetzal, which dies in captivity or once one of his tail feathers is damaged, best illustrates the force behind Jose Marti’s philosophies and actions to those who do not read Spanish. A separate exhibition deals with the relation between Jose Marti and the Cuban Revolution of 1959.
In the center of the tower you find another star with a Venetian Mosaic mural containing 89 thoughts on love, education, justice and culture which are extracted from Marti’s writings and an elevator which moves you to the top of the monument from where you can overlook the city.
To fully appreciate the man Jose Marti, his intellect and visions on the importance of an independent though unified Latin America, an English translation of the exhibited materials at both locations would have been helpful. Apart from this detail I felt that visiting the monument and birthplace of Jose Marti was worth the time and helped me to understand why Jose Marti is and always will remain Cuba’s national hero.