José Martí quotes

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José Martí

Birthdate: 28. January 1853
Date of death: 19. May 1895

José Julián Martí Pérez is the Cuban National Hero and an important figure in Latin American literature. During his life, he was a poet, essayist, journalist, revolutionary philosopher, translator, professor, publisher, Freemason, political theorist, and supporter of Henry George's economic reforms. Through his writings and political activity, he became a symbol for Cuba's bid for independence against Spain in the 19th century, and is referred to as the "Apostle of Cuban Independence." He also wrote about the threat of Spanish and US expansionism into Cuba. 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, 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" 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.

„I come from all places
and to all places I go“

—  José Martí

I (Yo soy un hombre sincero) as translated by Esther Allen in José Martí : Selected Writings (2002), p. 273
Simple Verses (1891)
Context: I come from all places
and to all places I go:
I am art among the arts
and mountain among mountains. I know the strange names
of flowers and herbs
and of fatal deceptions
and magnificent griefs. In night's darkness I've seen
raining down on my head
pure flames, flashing rays
of beauty divine.

„I know that when the world
surrenders, pallid, to repose,
the murmur of a tranquil stream
through the deep silence flows.“

—  José Martí

I (Yo soy un hombre sincero) as translated by Esther Allen in José Martí : Selected Writings (2002), p. 275
Simple Verses (1891)

„The soul, equal and eternal, emanates from bodies of different shapes and colors. Whoever foments and spreads antagonism and hate between the races, sins against humanity.“

—  José Martí

Our America (1881)
Context: There can be no racial animosity, because there are no races. The theorist and feeble thinkers string together and warm over the bookshelf races which the well-disposed observer and the fair-minded traveller vainly seek in the justice of Nature where man's universal identity springs forth from triumphant love and the turbulent hunger for life. The soul, equal and eternal, emanates from bodies of different shapes and colors. Whoever foments and spreads antagonism and hate between the races, sins against humanity.

„Happiness exists on earth, and it is won through prudent exercise of reason, knowledge of the harmony of the universe, and constant practice of generosity.“

—  José Martí

Context: Happiness exists on earth, and it is won through prudent exercise of reason, knowledge of the harmony of the universe, and constant practice of generosity. He who seeks it elsewhere will not find it for, having drunk from all the glasses of life, he will find satisfaction only in those.

„Men of action, above all those whose actions are guided by love, live forever.“

—  José Martí

Context: Men of action, above all those whose actions are guided by love, live forever. Other famous men, those of much talk and few deeds, soon evaporate. Action is the dignity of greatness.

„A grain of poetry suffices to season a century.“

—  José Martí

Dedication of the Statue of Liberty (1887)
Source: Versos Sencillos: Simple Verses

„Day and night I always dream with open eyes.“

—  José Martí

"I dream awake" ["Ismaelillo"]
As quoted in Great Hispanic-Americans (2005) by Nicolás Kanellos, Robert Rodriguez and Tamra Orr, p. 72

„Man is a living duty, a depository of powers that he must not leave in a brute state.“

—  José Martí

Context: Man is not an image engraved on a silver dollar, with covetous eyes, licking lips and a diamond pin on a silver dickey. Man is a living duty, a depository of powers that he must not leave in a brute state. Man is a wing.

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„One must have faith in the best in men and distrust the worst. One must allow the best to be shown so that it reveals and prevails over the worst.“

—  José Martí

Our America (1881)
Context: One must have faith in the best in men and distrust the worst. One must allow the best to be shown so that it reveals and prevails over the worst. Nations should have a pillory for whoever stirs up useless hate, and another for whoever fails to tell them the truth in time.

„The problem of independence did not lie in a change of forms but in change of spirit.“

—  José Martí

Our America (1881)
Context: America began to suffer, and still suffers, from the tiresome task of reconciling the hostile and discordant elements it inherited from the despotic and perverse colonizer, and the imported methods and ideas which have been retarding logical government because they are lacking in local realities. Thrown out of gear for three centuries by a power which denied men the right to use their reason, the continent disregarded or closed its ears to the unlettered throngs that helped bring it to redemption, and embarked on a government based on reason-a reason belonging to all for the common good, not the university brand of reason over the peasant brand. The problem of independence did not lie in a change of forms but in change of spirit.

„Talent is a gift that brings with it an obligation to serve the world, and not ourselves, for it is not of our making.“

—  José Martí

Context: Talent is a gift that brings with it an obligation to serve the world, and not ourselves, for it is not of our making. To use for our exclusive benefit what is not ours is theft. Culture, which makes talent shine, is not completely ours either, nor can we place it solely at our disposal. Rather, it belongs mainly to our country, which gave it to us, and to humanity, from which we receive it as a birthright. A selfish man is a thief.

„Peace demands of Nature the recognition of human rights“

—  José Martí

My Race (1893)
Context: What right do white racist, who believe their race is superior, have for complaining about black racists, who see something special in their own race? What right do black racists, who see a special character in their race, have for complaining about white racists? White men who think their race makes them superior to black men admit the idea of racial difference and authorize and initiate black racists. Black men who proclaim their race — when what they are really proclaiming is the spiritual identity that distinguishes one ethnic group from another — authorize and incite white racists. Peace demands of Nature the recognition of human rights; discrimination is contrary to Nature and to the enemy of peace. Whites who isolate themselves also isolate Negroes. Negroes who isolate themselves incite and isolate whites.

„I am good, and like a good thing
I will die with my face to the sun.“

—  José Martí

A Morir [To Die] (1894)
Context: I wish to leave the world
By its natural door;
In my tomb of green leaves
They are to carry me to die.
Do not put me in the dark
To die like a traitor;
I am good, and like a good thing
I will die with my face to the sun.

„Fortunately, there is a sane equilibrium in the character of nations, as there is in that of men. The force of passion is balanced by the force of interest.“

—  José Martí

Context: Fortunately, there is a sane equilibrium in the character of nations, as there is in that of men. The force of passion is balanced by the force of interest. An insatiable appetite for glory leads to sacrifice and death, but innate instinct leads to self-preservation and life. A nation that neglects either of these forces perishes. They must be steered together, like a pair of carriage horses.

„I grow a white rose
In July just as in January
For the sincere friend
Who gives me his frank hand.“

—  José Martí

As translated in Spanish-American Poetry : A Dual-language Anthology (1996) by Seymour Resnick
Variant translation:
I cultivate a white rose
In July as in January
For the sincere friend
Who gives me his hand frankly. <p> And for the cruel person who tears out
the heart with which I live,
I cultivate neither nettles nor thorns:
I cultivate a white rose.
Simple Verses (1891), I Grow a White Rose
Context: I grow a white rose
In July just as in January
For the sincere friend
Who gives me his frank hand.
And for the cruel man who pulls out of me
the heart with which I live,
I grow neither nettles nor thorns:
I grow a white rose.

„In truth, men speak too much of danger.“

—  José Martí

Context: In truth, men speak too much of danger. Let others be terrified by the natural and healthy risks of life! We shall not be frightened! Poison sumac grows in a hard-working man's field, the serpent hisses from its hidden den, and the owl's eye shines in the belfry, but the sun goes on lighting the sky, and truth continues marching across the earth unscathed.

„A nation that neglects either of these forces perishes. They must be steered together, like a pair of carriage horses.“

—  José Martí

Context: Fortunately, there is a sane equilibrium in the character of nations, as there is in that of men. The force of passion is balanced by the force of interest. An insatiable appetite for glory leads to sacrifice and death, but innate instinct leads to self-preservation and life. A nation that neglects either of these forces perishes. They must be steered together, like a pair of carriage horses.

„Barricades of ideas are worth more than barricades of stones.“

—  José Martí

Our America (1881)
Context: Barricades of ideas are worth more than barricades of stones.
There is no prow that can cut through a cloudbank of ideas. A powerful idea, waved before the world at the proper time, can stop a squadron of iron-clad ships, like the mystical flag of the Last judgement.

„Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Etiam egestas wisi a erat. Morbi imperdiet, mauris ac auctor dictum.“

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