José Martí was both an important literary figure and is Cuba's National Hero. He was born to Spanish parents on January, 28, 1853.
In 1871, at the age of just 16, he was sent into exile by Spanish colonialists because of his political views. He remained in this first exile, during which he visited Mexico, Spain, Guatemala and France. By that time, other countries in Latin America had all gained their independence, but Cuba was still held by Spain.
His second exile, beginning in 1879 and lasting longer than the first, took him for many years to the United States. There he wrote "Versos Libres" (Free Verses) in 1885 and "Versos Sencillos" (Simple Verses) in 1891. These writings began the movement known as Modernism.
His time in New York made Martí fear that the United States would interfere with the establishment of democratic governments in Latin America. In 1892, he founded the Cuban Revolutionary Party, intended to free Cuba from Spanish rule.
Martí returned to Oriente Province during the Cuban War of Independence in 1895. He had tried to unite all Cubans against Spain, and now he had come to fight too. Only a month after the revolution began, Martí was martyred at the battle of Dos Ríos.
The Cuban revolutionaries fought on in his memory for three years. When American imperialists persuaded the country to launch a war on Spain after accusing the Spanish of destroying the Battleship Maine, U.S. troops joined in as well. The Americans fought against Spain, but were generally unsincere allies of the rebels'. Spain was no match for the U.S.' new fleet and army, and lost many of her colonies to America, including Cuba.