Jose Marti’s Last Nights in NYC
by Claudie Benjamin
Many people are of course familiar with the Cuban revolutionary hero, Jose Martí, but if you don’t know about him, or are only certain you once knew, the result of a reminder is satisfying.
A monumental bronze equestrian statue of Marti stands at the 7th Avenue entry to Central Park. The NYC Department of Parks bio of Marti notes that “Martí campaigned for the liberation of Cuba from Spain and was imprisoned by Spanish authorities in 1868. Fleeing to New York in 1880, he continued to advocate for Cuban freedom while in exile and organized the Cuban Revolutionary Party in 1892. Martí returned to Cuba in 1895, at the beginning of Cuba’s successful fight for independence. The monument depicts a reeling yet resolute Martí after being fatally wounded while atop his horse during the 1895 battle at Dos Rios. Although the statue was completed in 1959, the political climate between pro- and anti-Castro elements in New York necessitated the delay of the monument’s unveiling until 1965.” 
Truly a hero. Marti was a remarkably talented and accomplished patriot, poet, essayist, and diplomat. “From January 1880 to January 1895, the most productive years of his life, Martí found refuge and solace in New York. He founded the Cuban Revolutionary Party, as well as a weekly newspaper and a children’s magazine. He was consul of Uruguay, Argentina, and Paraguay and helped to form La Liga, a group that promoted the rights of Cuban and Puerto Rican blacks. He wrote for The New York Sun and composed his best poems, and, as he did many times in his life, he fell in love.” 
Marti was also moved and delighted by events that were happening in NYC during his years in the city. These included the opening of the Brooklyn Bridge, the installation of the Statue of Liberty, and performances of the Barnum and Bailey Circus. With a wife and children in Cuba, Marti is known to have fallen in love with his landlady when he was first living in Brooklyn. Possibly, he fathered a daughter. He lavished love and attention on her. Much later, his daughter (officially his goddaughter) married and her son was the actor Caesar Romero who proudly claimed the Cuban hero as his grandfather. 
Marti was a remarkably talented and accomplished patriot, poet, essayist, and diplomat.
Assassinated at the age of 42, Marti, an ardent patriot, was a charismatic romantic figure. Having lived in New York for his last 15 years, his last known longtime address was in midtown. But, in the days before returning to Cuba, it has long been reported that he lived with his friend and physician Dr. Ramon L. Miranda and (his wife) Luciana Govín at 116 West 64th Street.  Luciana contributed a large sum of money in support efforts to liberate Cuba from Spanish rule. 
During these few weeks before leaving the country, Martí’s movements seem to have been somewhat guarded, consciously avoiding being waylaid by sympathizers of his Spanish colonialist enemies or Pinkerton detectives who were agents of the Spanish government. 
These enemies had thwarted a meticulously planned uprising against Spain in 1894 and he was taking measures not to have renewed plans compromised.
Still, Martí’s birthday was feted at Delmonico’s just a few days before his departure. “On a cold January evening in 1895, José Martí walked briskly to Delmonico’s Restaurant on 26th Street and Fifth Avenue to celebrate his birthday. It was a Monday, the 28th day of the month…” 
The article continues to describe the birthday celebration, “…the sight of four loyal friends waiting for him at a corner table helped to place him in a celebratory mood. It was, after all, his birthday and it was his favorite New York restaurant. He once wrote about Delmonico’s that ‘everything there is served and prepared with supreme distinction…moist bottles set on rich napkins, select dishes on elegant platters, delicate crystal filled with perfumed wines, silver plates with soft breads…’”
The underlying mission remained all-important. The day after the dinner, January 29, Martí drafted and signed the order to start the uprising on the island. Gonzalo de Quesada, one of the diners at Delmonico’s, carried the order to Key West where, according to legend, it was rolled into a cigar, taken to the island, and delivered personally to Martí’s representative in Havana, Juan Gualberto Gómez. 
In this context, one scholar’s assertion  that Martí actually was still living at his friend’s old address further downtown (on 46th Street) may be explained by the possibility that his compatriots were moving him around as a way of protecting him. So, for this reason, it’s credible that he was staying at 116 West 64th Street and made a quick visit on the morning of his January 30 departure for Cuba to say goodbye to the Baralt family, Cuban friends who lived down the street at 135 West 64th Street. 
Today, Martí is remembered not only by his statue in Central Park but also by statues and parks in other parts of the world. For example, a bust honoring Marti was recently installed in the José Martí High School #52, in Ulan Bator, Mongolia. 
The song “Guantanamera” was originally a love poem written by Martí. It evolved into a call for national pride. and the struggle for justice….(and) has been sung by singers including Joan Baez, the Fugees, Jimmy Buffett, Jose Feliciano, Julio Iglesias, and Pete Seeger.” 
“Guantanamera” was originally a love poem written by Martí.
Claudie Benjamin is journalist who writes for LANDMARK WEST!