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Food and travel captivate Janet Podolak, who chronicles both for The News-Herald. Get the back story of her three decades of stories here. Guest bloggers and fellow News-Herald staffers also periodically share details of their trips.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Cuban anthem to Jose Marti heard all over Havana

Floral tributes to Cuban poet and hero Jose Marti were placed in front of his statue on the May 19 anniversary of his death in 1895. My Havana hotel, the Ingleterra, is shown in the background. Words to "Guanatamera," from   Marti's poems, have made the song into an anthem that's heard everywhere.  
I heard the song Guantanamera everywhere during my recent visit to Cuba - sung on street corners, in pubs and in Havana's many squares. I recalled the Sandpipers version, but until I went there didn't know it's become a virtual anthem in Cuba. Its lyrics are based on the poetry collection "Versos Sencillos" by Cuban poet and independence hero Jose Marti.

Marti's writing got him in serious trouble for the first time in 1869 when he wrote passionately about his support of the rebels during the Ten Years’ War. Cuban landowners were seeking independence from Spain and wanted  to free the slaves. Marti, who was only 16 at the time,  was convicted of treason and sedition and sentenced to six years’ labor. His parents' intervened and got his sentence reduced after a year, but he was exiled to Spain. The irons he was held in scarred his legs for the rest of his life.

Statues of Marti are all over Havana, including in the center of a leafy square opposite the hotel where I stayed the first two nights. The entire neighborhood dates from the era in which  Marti lived and on the May 19 anniversary of his death in 1895 bouquets of flowers emerged from nowhere around the base of that statue. Havana’s main airport is the José Martí International Airport, his Jan. 28 birthday  still is celebrated and various postage stamps featuring Martí have been issued over the years  Cuban exiles in Miami and the Castro regime in Cuba   even argue over his “support:” both sides claim that if Martí were alive today he would support their side of the long-running feud. Click above to hear it now as sung from a rooftop at an outdoor restaurant in Havana.

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