By Marcela Pizarro

Jose Marti, venerated as the father of Cuban independence, is one of Latin America's most famous journalists. 

For most of his adult life, Marti lived in exile in New York, earning his living as a foreign correspondent. Throughout the 1880s and early 1890s, it was through Marti's gaze that Latin Americans were able to see and understand the United States.

Jose Marti was a very prominent journalist... probably one of the most famous and prominent thinkers of Latin America. He was also the father and the intellectual architect, if you will, of the Cuban independence movement. Not only was he an intellectual, but he helped to raise a lot of money to put forward that cause, and through his journalism he presented a lot of his views.

Carlos Garcia-Perez, Director, Office of Cuba Broadcasting (US)

But in 1895, he went back to Cuba and led an insurrection against the Spanish government. He died on the battlefield and never got to see the fruits of his struggle.

Only three years later, the war of independence was won and Spain had lost its last colony. 

"Jose Marti is our national hero - he was a man who died for Cuba literally, and he was a very talented poet and writer. He wanted liberty for Cuba, he wanted Cubans to be free, to have freedom of expression, to have freedom of association. He wanted a free democratic Cuba. That's Jose Marti," says Karen Caballero, a reporter for Radio TV Marti.

Since his death, Jose Marti is often quoted - and often revindicated - by different sides of the political divide. 

Fidel Castro was never tired of bringing him back to life.

In 1953, Castro led the first, and unsuccessful, armed rebellion on the Moncada barracks against Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista. 

While preparing his defence in jail for the trial, Castro requested the writings of his idol, Jose Marti. The Batista regime denied him access to Marti's work, or even paper on which to prepare his case. But in the now famous "History will absolve me" defence speech, Castro cited, from memory, 10 references to the works of Marti.

More than 20 years later, when Ronald Reagan and the US government began to broadcast state-funded, anti-Castro radio programs on the island, they named their station after the long lost Cuban hero.

Radio Marti eventually developed a television counterpart, called TV Marti. They too revindicated Marti's memory as the symbol of independence, this time - from Castro's regime. 

So what does one of the Latin America's most famous journalists represent for both sides of the Cuban story?

Alvaro Fernandez, from Progreso Semanal says: "Jose Marti was a poet and a revolutionary, also a journalist who wrote in the Americas. He lived many years in the United States and was one of the founding fathers of the Cuban Republic in the 19th century. He is the greatest Cuban hero of all time, and somebody who has influenced the thoughts of many on all sides of this issue. 

"Marti is recognised and revered by all sides of the Cuba issue. It's interesting, you know in Cuba, Jose Marti is the greatest Cuban that ever lived. In the United States, amongst Cubans, Jose Marti is the greatest Cuban that ever lived. So I guess in that sense it's a name that you know will capture anyone."

Fernando Ravsberg, a Havana-based blogger, believes that Jose Marti was one of Cuba's greatest journalists, and says his influence went much further than just journalism.

"He is very important to me. On the homepage of my blog I have included a quote of his, where he says that journalism must be like the old post riders, who'd always keep a fresh horse, saddle and spurs at the ready.

"Marti in a way, is like chewing gum, malleable to all interpretations. For instance, you will never hear on Radio Marti, or Marti TV, Marti's statements that the US's march upon Latin America had to be stopped. You will never see on there that quote about how he "lived inside the monster and thus knew its entrails well", in reference to his time spent in the US.

"Here in Cuba, they will never mention Marti's critique of socialism, which when read today, in the context of the ongoing reforms, seems remarkably far-sighted and brilliant. So in a sense, you can get whatever you need from Marti. I do that myself, I get what I need from Marti. And what matters to me is that indomitable journalistic spirit: saddle and spurs always at the ready and always putting the common good before personal gain." 

Source: Al Jazeera