MIAMI BEACH (CBSMiami) — National Anthems in both English and Spanish kicked off the celebration Friday, honoring the life and accomplishments of José Martí, a Cuban national hero and an important figure in Latin American literature.
“It’s the ultimate symbol of unity and respect for the Cuban-American community,” said former Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart.
At Collins Park, near 21st street in Miami Beach, Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez sponsored the event near the Jose Marti statue that was inaugurated more than 20 years ago.
“So many of my constituents older Cuban exiles, and last year when I came here, there was an event with five people, it was really important for me to grow this event,” said Gonzalez.
Through his writings and political activity, Martí became a symbol for Cuba’s bid for independence against Spain in the 19th century and is referred to as the “Apostle of Cuban Independence” — something Cuban-Americans continue to hope for.
“What I most admire about Marti, he was not only ahead of this time, he was ahead of all times — against racism, sexism, classism in the 19th century,” added Diaz-Balart.
Although considered an intellectual rather than a soldier, Martí was a key figure in the planning and strategy of the Cuban War of Independence. He died at the Battle of Dos Ríos against Spanish troops in 1895.
His passionate belief in democracy and justice, however, has endured.
“The objective sometimes is not arriving,” said Diaz-Balart. “It’s the process. It’s the journey.”
The city of Miami Beach sponsored Friday’s event. They hope to grow the celebration in the years to come.