On January 28, 1853, Cuba's padre de la patria (father of the nation), José Martí, was born of Spanish parents in this humble house. When a child he prophetically announced, "Five generations of slaves must be followed by a generation of martyrs." At age 15 he wrote a newspaper piece judged treasonous by the Spanish governors, and after time in a Havana prison followed by exile to the Isla de la Juventud, he was exiled to Spain, where he later studied law. Martí then spent 14 years in the United States, working as a newspaper reporter. Three volumes of poetry and several books of essays established him as the most brilliant Latin American writer and political analyst of his day.
Martí's words stirred both moral and financial support for Cuban independence. In mid-April 1895, as part of a revolutionary plan that was months in the making, Martí joined General Máximo Gómez on Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic). The two set out for Eastern Cuba, where General Antonio
Maceo awaited them. A month later, on May 19, 1895, Martí became one of the first casualties of the Second War of Independence, when he charged, mounted on a white steed, into a Spanish ambush during a battle at Dos Ríos. His lyrics in "Guantanamera," are premonitory: "Que no me entierran en lo oscuro / a morir como un traidor / yo soy bueno y como bueno / moriré de cara al sol." ("May they not bury me in darkness / to die like a traitor / I am good, and as a good man / I will die facing the sun.") The memorabilia in this museum range from locks of the young Martí's hair to the shackle he wore around his ankle as a prisoner to letters, books, and poetry. Look for the martyr's spurs and ammunition belt, a rare 1893 photograph of Martí with Máximo Gómez in New York, and another of the Manhattan office on Front Street where he worked on the Cuban independent newspaper Patria.