Dunn provides historical context and plenty of rich back matter for the curious, making this biography also a great introduction to recent Cuban history. —Politics and Prose
All Cubans agree on one thing: José Martí is the “Father of Cuba.” He was and remains Cubas national hero. Cubans from all walks life simply call him “The Apostle.”
Poet, political philosopher, statesman, novelist, journalist, translator, and firebrand revolutionary, Martí was the driving force behind the final Cuban insurrection against Spanish rule in the late nineteenth century.
This young adult biography begins with Martí’s origins in the mid-nineteenth century Cuba, which was then among the last of Spain’s New World possessions. Next, the narrative traces his one-track mission into adulthood as a firebrand, intellectual radical who dies a martyr’s death while fighting in Cuba.
Martí’s remarkable talents emerged in his boyhood. A revulsion against slavery in Cuba and Spains oppressive rule evoked powerful moral response in him. Havana’s revolutionary circles drew him in and turned him into a radical in his early teens. Unjustly convicted, imprisoned, and exiled for treason against Spain at 17, he dedicated his life to the ousting Spanish from in Cuba. As an adult, he lived as an expatriate in four nations, honing his skills as journalist, poet, political thinker, and organizer of revolution. More than any other Cuban he motivated the Cuban émigré population, especially in Florida, to take up arms against Spain. He conducted much of the war planning, fund raising, and troop-recruiting in Florida, including cities such as Key West, Tampa, Jacksonville, and Ocala.
The book relates Martí’s personal story—both his strengths and weaknesses—culminating in a depiction of how at 42 he was killed in action and became a martyr. His legacy remains powerful. Today, both Castro’s regime and his opponents in exile claim Martí as their own. For the past 120 years, his standard for leadership has endured. No other Cuban reaches his stature. No one probably ever will.
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