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Marcha de las Antorchas: A tribute to José Martí 

Marcha de las Antorchas: A tribute to José  Martí 

Cuban literature was enriched by Martí’s simple, fluent style and his personal, vivid imagery. His writings include poems, newspaper articles, reviews, letters, diaries, essays and political writings, which have been gathered in over 50 volumes in Martí’s Obras Completas [Complete Works].

While Martí’s poetry is considered by many as the precursor of the Spanish-American literary movement known as Modernismo, he is also considered the founder of modern political thought in Cuba. After all, he created the Cuban Revolutionary Party and organized the “necessary war” of 1895.

In 1953, on the centenary of his birth, the Federation of University Students decided to pay tribute to Martí’s memory in what would become known as the March of the Torches. On the eve of January 28, people filled the streets to show their civic attitude as well as the significance of the day. This act had added meaning because it occurred during the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista, who seized power through a military coup, assumed the presidency and suspended the Constitution in 1952. At 11:30 pm on Tuesday, January 27, a huge mass of torch-bearing youth descended the steps of the University of Havana to march through the streets. The human avalanche completed their journey shortly after midnight upon their arrival at the quarries where the 17-year-old Martí had served his sentence.

After the Revolution of 1959, the March of the Torches acquired a more festive mood. Today, many of the students who take part in the march are driven by the festive atmosphere and not necessarily the true meaning of the celebration. Sixty years after the first march, however, one thing is certain: the streets of Havana continue to fill with youth holding torches on the evening of January 27.

January 2015 This article formed part of the January 2015 issue of What’s On Havana The definitive monthly travel & culture guide to Havana Download our current issue of What’s On Havana, your definitive travel, culture and entertainment guide for all things happening in Havana, Cuba’s bustling and enigmatic capital city. We include features from around Cuba written by the best international travel writers covering Cuba. Our monthly online digital magazine is also available in Spanish and French.

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