José Martí, born in 1853 in La Habana, Cuba, was a poet, a revolutionary and is known as Cuba's National Hero. He was sentenced to 6 years of hard labor at the age of 16 for his political activity and later was exiled to Spain. He also lived in the United States where he was able to mobilize support for the Cuban revolution among Cuban exiles. He was a founder of the Cuban Revolutionary Party and spoke out against U.S. imperialism in Latin America. In 1895, he was shot and killed during an invasion of Cuba, giving his life to help make Cuba free. His dream was realized, but not until after his death. In 1898, Spain gave up control of Cuba as a provision of the Treaty of Peace of Paris between the United States and Spain, ending the Spanish-American War. The Cuban Republic was instituted in 1902, but did not return to home rule until 1909.
The day before he died, Martí said in a letter that it was his duty “to prevent, by the independence of Cuba, the United States from spreading over the West Indies and falling, with that added weight, upon other lands of our America. All I have done up to now, and shall do hereafter, is to that end… I have lived inside the monster and know its insides.”
As a student of Spanish literature, I have read Martí's poetry and see him as more than just another revolutionary fighting for his country. He, like Cuban exiles today, longed to see a "Cuba Libre" - a free Cuba. His longing for his homeland is seen and felt in his poem "Dos patrias" (Two Homelands) from his collection of poems, "Flores de destierro" (Flowers of Exile), written during his exile, and his identity as a son of Cuba is clear in the poem "Soy un hombre sincero" from the collection, "Versos sencillos".
Interesting note: an adaptation of this poem was set to music in 1929, called "Guantanamera", and due to Martí's status as National Hero, became an unofficial Cuban anthem. It was made popular in the United States later in the 20th century by The Sandpipers.