Lessons on political activism from the Cuban George Washington

If you don’t know who Jose Marti is, you should. He was one of the primer thinkers in the Americas. Jose Marti was a renaissance man: A poet, a freedom fighter, a journalist, a philosopher, a revolutionary, a mentor, and hero for all Latin America. Americans today can learn a lot from the life and times of Marti, especially the basics of political activism.


His dedication of freedom, justice and liberty are apparent in all his work. He heroically died in battle fighting for his beliefs – independence for Cuba and freedom for all Cubans, of all races and social classes.

On a recent trip to New York I was pleasantly surprised to find a brilliant quote by Jose Marti in the Statue of Liberty. It made me proud and made me think of what people in today’s modern world could learn from him

He is exactly the kind of person we need in today’s political environment. Not only was a thinker but a doer, a man of action. If he needed money for the revolution against Spain, he got up and raised the funds. He wasn’t a person waiting for a solution. He created solutions.

In my opinion too many people these days just stand in the sidelines and complain. Unfortunately too many people fall in one of two extremes, a) they want other people to figure out the answers and will complain the entire time, b) think they

have all the answers and complain people aren’t reaching out to them.

First off, no one has all the answers, no one is perfect, but together we can find great solutions. Jose Marti understood this and surrounded himself with brilliant people. Together they worked for a common cause. (Including one of my ancestors, Francisco Vicente Aguilera.)

I wish more people would understand these basic concepts of political activism: Be part of the solution. Call yourself into action. Do not wait for an invitation. Help at ANY level you can. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel, instead work together for a common cause. Have faith in others and empower them to become leaders. Surround yourself with brighter people than yourself.

As a young girl my grandmother, who I called Yaya, taught me to recite all of his poetry. Marti’s children’s books were almost required reading for any Cuban child, La Edad de Oro. Like many my favorite story is Zapaticos de Rosas, a story that taught me about charity and love.

One of his most famous poems is Rosa Blanca, found below in its original Spanish and an English translation. (Hat tip to FIU and Carlos Ripoll essay on Jose Marti)

Cultivo Una Rosa Blanca

Por Jose Marti
Cultivo una rosa blanca
En julio como en enero,
Para el amigo sincero
Que me da su mano franca.

Y para el cruel que me arranca
El corazon con que vivo,
Cardo ni ortiga cultivo,
Cultivo una rosa blanca.


I Cultivate a White Rose

By Jose Marti

I cultivate a white rose
In July as in January
For the sincere friend
Who gives me his hand frankly.

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.

Read more about Jose Marti:


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