José Martí, a fierce Cuban patriot, believed himself to be a citizen of the world. He was renowned as a teacher, journalist, poet and revolutionary who captured and ignited the spirit of the Americas with his speeches and writings. Although he focused on freeing all of Latin America from Spanish rule, he saw danger in the growing economic and political power of the United States. He declared that “Cuba must be free of the United States as well as Spain.” He referred to the nation of the Yankees as the “monster” writing, “I have lived inside the monster, and I know its entrails.”
Those who attempt to explain the fissures in US-Cuban affairs solely as a result of the Cold War are overlooking the groundwork laid by Martí long before communism and the Soviet Union. Indeed, José Martí's influence is easily recognized in much of Castro's own speeches and writings, especially in the days long before the attack he led on the army barracks at Moncada near Santiago de Cuba, long before his imprisonment and exile to Mexico, long before his return to lead a successful revolution to depose America's friend, Fulgencio Batista, and long before he ever avowed loyalty to communism or the Soviet Union.
Martí is also the author of the words to Cuba's most popular song, Guantánamera:
Against this backdrop, the Spanish government in Cuba committed another diplomatic blunder. Once again, it involved an American steamship, this time the Aliança.
I read much of José Martí's writings long before I began writing Rebels on the Mountain, my novel set in the time of Castro's insurgency. It provided me with the philosophical backdrop of that revolution, and helped me better understand its political underpinnings.