José Martí quotes

José Martí photo
103   8

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

Martí : Thoughts/Pensamientos (1994)
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

Martí : Thoughts/Pensamientos (1994)
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

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

—  José Martí

Martí : Thoughts/Pensamientos (1994)
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.

„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.“

—  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

„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.

„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.

„Love is the bond between men, the way to teach and the center of the world.“

—  José Martí

Martí : Thoughts/Pensamientos (1994)
Context: There is happiness in duty, although it may not seem so. To fulfill one's duty elevates the soul to a state of constant sweetness. Love is the bond between men, the way to teach and the center of the world.

„In night's darkness I've seen
raining down on my head
pure flames, flashing rays
of beauty divine.“

—  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.

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

—  José Martí

Martí : Thoughts/Pensamientos (1994)
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.

„There must be a certain amount of decorum in the world, just as there must be a certain amount of light.“

—  José Martí

Martí : Thoughts/Pensamientos (1994)
Context: There are men who live contented though they live without decorum. Others suffer as if in agony when they see around them people living without decorum. There must be a certain amount of decorum in the world, just as there must be a certain amount of light. When there are many men without decorum, there are always others who themselves possess the decorum of many men. These are the ones who rebel with terrible strength against those who rob nations of their liberty, which is to rob men of their decorum. Embodied in those men are thousands of men, a whole people, human dignity.

„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.

„Men have no special rights simply because they belong to one race or another. When you say "men," you have already imbued them with all their rights.“

—  José Martí

Variant translation: Men have no special right because they belong to one race or another: the word man defines all rights.
My Race (1893)
Context: "Racist" is a confusing word, and it should be clarified. Men have no special rights simply because they belong to one race or another. When you say "men," you have already imbued them with all their rights.

Similar authors

Mikhail Lermontov photo
Mikhail Lermontov33
Russian writer, poet and painter
Jan Neruda photo
Jan Neruda7
Czech poet, theater reviewer, publicist and writer
Robert Southey photo
Robert Southey51
British poet
Léon Bloy photo
Léon Bloy22
French writer, poet and essayist
Elizabeth Barrett Browning photo
Elizabeth Barrett Browning88
English poet, author
Robert Louis Stevenson photo
Robert Louis Stevenson118
Scottish novelist, poet, essayist, and travel writer
Percy Bysshe Shelley photo
Percy Bysshe Shelley246
English Romantic poet
Charles Baudelaire photo
Charles Baudelaire133
French poet
Aleksandr Pushkin photo
Aleksandr Pushkin33
Russian poet
Today anniversaries
Lewis Carroll photo
Lewis Carroll241
English writer, logician, Anglican deacon and photographer 1832 - 1898
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart photo
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart25
Austrian Romantic composer 1756 - 1791
Dmitri Mendeleev photo
Dmitri Mendeleev7
Russian chemist and inventor 1834 - 1907
Giuseppe Verdi photo
Giuseppe Verdi8
Italian composer 1813 - 1901
Another 78 today anniversaries
Similar authors
Mikhail Lermontov photo
Mikhail Lermontov33
Russian writer, poet and painter
Jan Neruda photo
Jan Neruda7
Czech poet, theater reviewer, publicist and writer
Robert Southey photo
Robert Southey51
British poet
Léon Bloy photo
Léon Bloy22
French writer, poet and essayist
Elizabeth Barrett Browning photo
Elizabeth Barrett Browning88
English poet, author