Union City commissioners and locals held a small ceremony Friday, Jan. 27, honoring Cuban nationalist Jose Marti on what would have been his 164th birthday. Marti, who was born in Cuba, fought for Cuban independence from Spain in the 1890s.
Born in Havana, Cuba to poor Spanish immigrants, Marti became an essayist, journalist, revolutionary philosopher, professor, publisher, and freemason. He was best known for dedicating his life to fighting for Cuban independence.
He wrote about politics from a young age. During Cuba's Ten Year War against Spanish rulers in the late 1800s, Marti created his own newspaper promoting the struggle, called La Patria Libre. At the time, Spain was ruling Cuba. Spanish authorities arrested and deported Marti to Spain.
Marti ended up moving around the world, including stints in Mexico, France, Venezuela, and even New York City, all while promoting Cuban independence through his writing.
In the 1890s, Marti became a delegate for the Cuban Revolutionary Party. After he returned to Cuba, Spanish troops shot and killed him during an encounter.
Officials held a Cuban flag-raising ceremony, joined by the Union City High School Junior ROTC.
Officials moved the event to the lobby of 3700 Palisade Ave. from its original location at International Park due to strong gusts of wind. They brought a bust of Marti from Town Hall inside.
“Not only was he an educator, but he was an artist, he was a poet, he did so much for the world.” -- Maryury Martinelli
“Not only was he an educator, but he was an artist, he was a poet, he did so much for the world,” she added. “And for that, we're grateful. I love you all. I work with the Cubans, I grew up with the Cubans-I feel Cuban today, so thank you so much.”
“I'm very proud to have our superintendent, Silva Abbato, of Cuban descent [here],” said Commissioner Celin Valdivia, acknowledging the superintendent of schools’ Cuban roots.
He also acknowledged Thomas Edison School Principal Eliseo Aleman, Veterans Memorial School Principal Catalina Tamargo, Colin Powell School Principal Teresita Diaz, and Adriana Birne, director of early childhood for Union City schools, as a wave of Hispanic educators in the district. All were at the event.
Commissioner Lucio Fernandez said, “Union City is made up of 95 percent Hispanics. Out of those Hispanics, nearly 70 percent are Cuban, believe it or not.”
On Marti, he said, “He was a revolutionary. He stood up for the Cuban people, for the rights of Cubans. He fought for freedom.”
Abbato said, “It's a very proud day, as a Cuban-American, to be here. “[Jose] was very loved. He represents freedom in Cuba. He has had numerous works that were published.”
She recalled a book from her childhood that talked about “the way a child looks at the world. He was a fighter. He fought for his freedom in Cuba as well.”