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The main objective of this article is to explore Cuban nineteenth century patriot José Marti’s little known activity as a translator and, to a lesser extent, interpreter.

When one looks up the Cuban patriot’s name in a few dictionaries and encyclopedic dictionaries, it is somewhat disappointing to find that what appears in most cases is a very brief, stereotypical biography of Martí. In a brief search through several reference materials used in our courses, such stereotypes become apparent. In the examples below Martí’s dates of birth and death (1853 and 1895, respectively), as well as names of some literary works and their dates have been omitted by this author to avoid unnecessary repetition. Dictionary and encyclopedic works references to Karl Marx are included in each case to serve as a yardstick for comparison.

Martí, José, Cuban patriot and writer (Webster’s Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language, 1999: 880).  In comparison, Karl Marx is not given too many words, but a brief description of his theory receives ten lines.

Martí, José (Julián); Cuban poet, essayist & revolutionary patriot (sic)” (Webster’s New World College Dictionary, 2000: 882). Marx here does not receive much “coverage,” but it is still double the amount of words that Martí is allotted. Likewise, Marti’s rank as a writer is diminished to that of essayist, but the kind of patriot he was is clarified.

Martí, José Julián, Cuban poet and hero of the independence movement. While in exile in the United States (. . .) he founded the Cuban Revolutionary Party. His best poems appear in Ismaelillo, Versos sencilles (sic) and Versos Libres. A leader of the 1895 Cuban rebellion against Spanish rule, Martí was killed at the battle of Dos Rios”.

(The New Webster’s International Encyclopedia, 1999: 680). In this encyclopedia, the Cuban patriot keeps his revolutionary character, but poet becomes his literary profession. Karl Marx, by way of contrast, receives two columns for his biography and two more for a synopsis of his philosophical theory.

Martí (José), écrivain et patriote cubain. Par son action, ses écrits politiques et poétiques (. . .), il est un héros de l’indépendence hispanoaméricaine.” [Martí (José), Cuban writer and patriot. Due to his actions, his poetic and political writings (. . .) he is considered a hero of Hispanic America’s independence], (Le Petit Larousse Illustré, 2005: 1549, my translation). Here, the dictionary lines hardly reach the number of five for Martí, while Marx receives a full thirty line column! The Latin American hero is treated more fairly, however, as to his profession of writer, and there is a better focus on his struggle for independence.

Martí (José), escritor y patriota cubano. Héroe de la independencia cubana, sufrió la cárcel, deportaciones a España y largos exilios en Guatemala y Nueva York

(. . .). Su obra poética (. . .) lo convierte en un precursor del modernismo, al igual que su novela (. . .). Sus artículos (. . .) y ensayos reflejan su profundo americanismo y su idea de la libertad basada en un “cambio de espíritu” con una perspectiva liberal (. . .) Su activismo político lo llevó a fundar diversos periódicos (entre ellos Patria, editado en

Nueva York). También escribió obras teatrales, estudios sobre literatura y arte y Cartas de Nueva York (1881-1891). [Martí (José), Cuban writer and patriot. Hero of Cuban independence, he suffered prison, deportation to Spain and long exile periods in Guatemala and New York (. . .). Due to his poetic work (. . .) as well as his novel (. . .), he is considered one of the forefathers of modernism. His articles and essays reflect his profound love for the Americas and his pursuit of freedom on the basis of a “change of soul” with a liberal perspective (. . .). As part of his political activity, he founded several newspapers (among them Patria, published in New York). He also wrote theater plays, essays on arts and literature and New York Letters (1881-1891)]. (El Pequeño Larousse Ilustrado, 100 años, 2005: 1507, my translation). In comparison, Marx only receives three lines more than Martí (26 to 23), and finally, Marti’s importance in world literature is highlighted. Obviously, among the reference works listed, this is by far the most complete information data about Martí, including his role in modernism, his love for the Americas and his perspective on freedom. His role as a journalist is also quite well explained.

In all the references above, the recurrent theme is Martí’s patriotism, with his literary production perhaps a close second, then his devotion to journalism. Nothing is said about José Martí as a translator, as a diplomat or as “the greatest Hispanic contributor to the U.S. literary heritage” (Manuel Tellechea, 1997: 9), and, it is this author’s contention, the most outstanding disseminator of U.S. culture in Latin America,

precisely because of his translation work and his activities as a journalist and editor. In his excellent book in Spanish, Martí, traductor, Leonel A. de la Cuesta (1996) develops

some aspects of Martí as a translator within his general objective to honor the Cuban patriot in the hundredth anniversary of his early death in battle.

It is usually said that to be a good translator, one should also be a writer. In José Martí’s case, there is no doubt that he was indeed the latter. However, was Martí a real translator or just a free lancer who tackled some translation jobs only due to financial constraints? This article will attempt to throw some light on this aspect of Martí’s activities.

During his short life –42 years—José Martí became one of the most salient representatives of modernism in literature. He wrote poems (his Versos Sencillos enjoy worldwide fame and prestige, many of them popularized as the lyrics of Guantanamera, the world known Cuban song), stories for children, articles for newspapers, prologues, reviews, commentaries on publications and so on and so forth. His political activities, in which he became involved as a teenager and because of which he suffered prison, torture and exile, led Cuban veterans and rookies, blacks and whites, mestizos and Chinese, even “good-will Spaniards” to unite for the first time in the long struggle against Spanish colonialism. He founded the Cuban Revolutionary Party and helped to create the will to fight the last “necessary war” against Spain. When this war started on February 24th, 1895, Cubans had been actively fighting Spain for some 30 years, and for much longer there had been conspiracies and invasions, which had been violently crushed by the colonialist authorities and their volunteer “militia”. Just three months later, Martí, already appointed by the Cubans as their civilian leader, was killed by Spanish bullets in

Dos Ríos. Against the advice of his experienced generals, Martí attempted to demonstrate that he could fight with a gun as well as he had for so long with a pen. As an inexperienced soldier, Martí the poet, the politician, the symbol of Cuban unity, did not survive his first experience in the battlefield. His body was interred, but his ideas, his literary production and his dream for independence have stayed with us forever.

Was Martí a translator? The answer to this question has to be Yes. Did he do translation work out of financial necessity only? The answer here has to be No, although undoubtedly he had to earn his living during very difficult times. If we expand on this idea, the following points become apparent:

a)      Martí was a professional man. During his forced exile in Spain after being released from prison, he studied in and then graduated from law school. However, due to Spanish colonialists’ arrogance and obstinacy, Martí was never allowed to practice law in Cuba.

b)      Like many middle-class men and some women of his time, Martí had to some extent studied Latin, Greek, French, English and even some Hebrew.

c)      Due to his studies, reading and extensive travels, José Martí mastered the Spanish language in practically all its variants. His mastery of the English language became more and more profound the longer he lived in the US, which was

several times and for many years, and where he also served as a journalist in between his trips to Tampa, New York and other venues where he organized the

Cuban exiles. The U.S. was indeed Martí’s second country with regard to length of residence.

d)      Martí wrote his first play and started trying his hand at translation when he was just a boy. His literary curiosity, from an early age, greatly contributed to lay the foundations for his rich prose, poetry and insightful translations later on.

Notwithstanding all of the above, during Martí’s life there did not exist any official translation school, university career or studies on translation-interpretation as a science or art. It would take a few decades for such schools to come into existence in Europe –that is, in modern times, since there had existed a School of Translation in Toledo a few centuries before—and almost a whole century before this would transpire in the United States. Those who were lucky to know several languages simply chose either to teach or to translate, but practically neither profession at the time was very lucrative.

As to translation-related matters, this author will make reference here to just two, which are as contemporary today as they appear to have been during Martí’s life: The contrast between descriptive and prescriptive grammar and Spanglish.  

On grammar, Martí wrote in his famous letter to María Mantilla, the daughter of two of his dearest friends, the following:

(. . .) grammar is gradually discovered by the child in what he reads and hears; that (grammar) is the only one that is effective. (Obras Completas, Vol. XX: 319-320)

The above statement, one of the very few Martí ever made on grammar, clearly illustrates the point that he favored descriptive to prescriptive grammar. Only ten years later would Ferdinand de Saussure develop his descriptive linguistics ideas.

On what is nowadays referred to as Spanglish, Martí showed contradictions between his theoretical approach to it and his praxis. On the one hand, he would criticize the use of expressions such as jugar un rol in Spanish, at the time a Gallicism for desempeñar un papel, to play a role. Today , however, rol is an accepted term in Spanish. On the other hand, in his informal correspondence, he would use phrases such as the following:

(. . .) que lo lleve al Clerk  [so that someone takes something to the clerk] instead of empleado, funcionario

(. . .) recibí su esquela con el bill [ I received your (short) letter with the bill] instead of la cuenta, la factura, el aviso de pago

(. . .) y a mi gran baby [and my great baby] instead of y a mi gran bebé, bebito, nene, nené (Obras Completas, Vol. XX: 413, 408, 214 respectively)

(. . .) esto es lo que voy escribiendo entre un meeting y otro [instead of reunión, asamblea, acto. In this case it is interesting how Martí, like many of us today, used a masculine gender article for the English word, instead of the feminine gender article that would correspond to the Spanish words reunión or asamblea] (Origen y desarrollo. . . Vol. II: 531, Note 139)

Carelessness? Divorce between theory and practice? Influence of English on Marti’s use of Spanish? It may be impossible to determine today what motivated such a “purist” of the Spanish language to let English loans “slip” in his informal correspondence. Perhaps it was just the Spanglish prone attitude many of us exhibit nowadays, which could be considered a combination of code switching as well as a result of the need for economy of speech: clerk, aside from being a much shorter word than empleado or funcionario, also serves as a hyperonym (superordinate) term for the concept denoted, which is perhaps broader in English than in Spanish, where the two possible equivalents above could be considered as hyponym (subordinate) terms due to their narrower meaning. The same phenomena can be the reason for the use of bill. However, that is not the case with baby and meeting. The Spanish version of the latter, mitin, is dictionary accepted today and widely used in contemporary Spanish. The former, baby, although often used in U.S. Spanish, does not appear yet in the consulted dictionaries in Spanish. In these two examples Martí made use of unnecessary loans from English.

Marti’s first published translation saw the light in 1875 (he was 22 years old at that time) and it was Mis hijos, written by Victor Hugo as Mes Fils (My Children). His source language here was, of course, French. His target language was Spanish. Perhaps Martí did this work as a tribute to a great writer he very much admired—and very briefly met in Paris—but it is interesting to note that, although this was not one of his best translations, Martí takes special care in communicating Hugo’s own considerations on translation, many of which he eventually made his own:

Shakespeare’s English is not today’s English. It has been necessary to bring together XVI century English and XIX century French in some kind of hand-to-hand combat between the two languages (. . .) To achieve that, (he) has had to provide each phrase, each verse, almost each word, with an inexhaustible invention of style.

In order to accomplish that, the translator must be a creator (. . .) Real translators enjoy this unique power to enrich a people without impoverishing another; to keep what they take and to provide a nation with a genius without depriving his country of it. (De la Cuesta: 1996:106, my translation from Spanish)

 José Martí went far beyond the traditional biblical and literary topics of translation of his time. He translated texts in the diplomatic, philosophical, historic, literary –prose and poetry—journalistic, and political fields. His multiple occupations and his constant travels away from his beloved motherland turned Martí into a consul for the longtime established independent republics of Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay. It was due to his quality as a speaker, negotiator and translator-interpreter that the government of Uruguay appointed him as its official representative at the 1891 International American Monetary Conference. His rank then, in today’s terms, would be equivalent to that of a minister without portfolio or a special appointee!

As to Martí’s humbleness and lack of financial ambitions, there is a testimony from when he sent his final report to the government of the Republic of Uruguay:

Your Excellency will allow me not to include the list of expenses I incurred as part of this delegation since I feel compensated enough by the honor bestowed on me

(De la Cuesta, 1996: 72, note 30, my translation).

On his need to use English in the U.S., in 1880 Martí wrote the following to a few friends:

If you could see me struggling to master this beautiful, rebellious language! Three or four more months and I will do better.

(. . .) I do not completely master it yet and although I can write it without any problem, I still speak comically (. . .) (Obras Completas, Vol 20: 285, 353, my translation)

Among his eventually numerous translations, Martí felt rightly proud of his Ramona in Spanish, translated from English under the same title as the work by Helen Hunt Jackson.

Of the original book Martí, the poet, wrote “Everyone will find something in it: a literary person will find merit; an artist will find color; generous people will find friendship; (. . .) tired people will find amusement (. . .) This book is real, but beautiful.” (Obras Completas, Vol. 22: 178). In addition to the works by Victor Hugo and Hunt Jackson, Martí translated texts written by Ralph Waldo Emerson and Edgar Allan Poe, Longfellow, Whitman as well as many short journalistic and children’s literature texts. He is rightfully considered one of the founders of modernism in literature, especially in poetry with his 1882 Ismaelillo, and of children’s literature in Latin America with his unsurpassed La Edad de Oro (The Golden Age) in 1889 (Tellechea 1997: 6).

Based on all of the above, it is this author’s contention that, although he may have done some translation work out of sheer financial necessity, Martí preferred to translate those authors whom he considered of world wide importance –as all the names above suggest—and, of course, were indeed among his personal favorites.

Martí was not only a translator of very good quality (as will be shown below), but also—unconsciously perhaps—a translation critic and a true pedagogue and methodologist concerning translation matters, especially when they dealt with the necessary steps to translate, and matters of style and beauty. For instance, on the translation of the Iliad into several languages, Martí stated that “In Spanish it is better not to read the translation made by Hermosilla (José Mamerto de Hermosilla): the words of the Iliad are there, but not the fire, the movement, the majesty, the divinity of the poem in which it seems the world is being born.” (Obras Completas, Vol.23:332; my translation and parentheses).

On the methodology of translation, Martí, while already on the Cuban battlefield, and just a few days before his death in a skirmish at Dos Ríos, wrote to a friend’s child the following:

(. . .) translation has to be natural; it should appear as if the book had been written in the language of the translation, since that is how good translations can be perceived (. . .) the French language in L’Histoire Générale is concise and direct, the same as I want your Spanish to be in your translation (. . .) Notice then how careful you must be when translating, so that the translation can be understood and be elegant, and the translated book, (. . .) does not remain in the same strange language in which it was before (“Carta a María Mantilla” in Obras Completas, Vol.20: 216-220; my translation).

One more point before proceeding to analyze some examples of Martí’s work as a translator: In the prologue to his Misterio (Mistery), which is a translation of Called Back by Hugh Conway –whose real name was Frederick John Fargus—José  Martí writes: “to translate is not to make one’s name stick out at the expense of the author, but to put the whole author in the words of the native (that is, target) language, avoiding, at all times, to show the one who is doing it” (Obras Completas, Vol. 24: 40; my italics, my translation).

These comments speak very highly of Martí’s quality as a translator and, perhaps more importantly, as a true selfless professional in a field where he could have excelled –and made some financial profit—on account of his extraordinary literary talent.

Here are some examples of the quality of Martí’s work as a translator. The following is his translation from English into Spanish of Fable, Ralph Waldo

Emerson’s version of a fable by Aesop. Numbers in brackets show a few translation techniques and procedures employed by Martí. A brief analysis of each follows below.


“Cada uno a su oficio”, [1] Del filósofo norteamericano Emerson

The mountain and the squirrel

La montaña y la ardilla

Had a quarrel,

Tuvieron su querella: [2]

And the former called the latter “Little Prig;”

“¡Váyase usted allá, presumidilla!” [3]

Dijo con furia aquélla; [4]

Bun replied,

A lo que respondió la astuta ardilla: [5]

“You are doubtless very big;

Sí que es muy grande usted, muy grande y bella; [6]

But all sorts of things and weather

Mas de todas las cosas y estaciones

Must be taken in together,

Hay que poner en junto las porciones,

To make up a year

Para formar, señora vocinglera, [7]

And a sphere.

Un año y una esfera.

And I think it a disgrace

Yo no sé que me ponga nadie tilde [8]

To occupy my place.

Por ocupar un puesto tan humilde. [9]

If I am not so large as you,

Si no soy yo tamaña

Como usted, mi señora la montaña,

You are not so small as I,

And not half so spry.

Usted no es tan pequeña

Como yo, ni a gimnástica me enseña.[10]

I’ll not deny you make

Yo negar no imagino

A very pretty squirrel track;

Que es para las ardillas buen camino

Su magnífica falda: [11]

Talents differ; all is well and wisely put;

Difieren los talentos a las veces:

If I cannot carry forests on my back,

Ni yo llevo los bosques a la espalda,

Neither can you crack a nut.”

Ni puede usted, señora, cascar nueces”.

(Ralph .W. Emerson, Selected Prose and Poetry, NY. Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1969: 432-433)

(José Martí, La edad de oro, Universal, Miami, 1995: 47-48)


[1] In the very title, Martí adapts the original “Fable” to the Spanish “Cada uno a su oficio” (Each to his craft/trade) which reads and “sounds” very well in Spanish, without suggesting the idea of something imaginary, which the Spanish cognate fábula would undoubtedly do. It is important to remember here that Martí published this translation as part of his writings for children in one of his most ambitious and beautiful projects: a magazine/journal under the title La edad de oro (The Golden Age). His version of the title is therefore based on content and not on the formal aspects of the fable in English. This can be considered an example of adaptation.

[2] Perfect harmony/correspondence between form and content. As a resourceful translator, Martí here manages to keep the rhythm and alliteration of the original: squirrel / quarrel become ardilla / querella while beautifully remaining 100% faithful to the original content.

[3] An example of addition. In English the mountain is calling the squirrel names. In Spanish, by adding the scornful command Váyase usted allá, Martí keeps the tone of the original while, through the use of the next word presumidilla (presumido: conceited, vain, worsened by the use of the belittling diminutive -illa) he masterfully maintains the alliteration and rhythm of the first two verses.

[4] Obvious addition too, but by no means unnecessary here. By adding the adverbial phrase con furia (angrily here) Martí highlights the idea of the mountain’s anger and arrogance.

[5] Marti’s translation of Emerson’s Bun for la astuta ardilla (the astute/smart squirrel) not only clarifies the relatively obscure appellative used in the original, but by using ardilla, the translation text manages to maintain the rhyme with presumidilla explained above. Example of expansion for the sake of form and content clarification

[6] This is a great example of Martí’s mastery of Spanish. He translates the English linear syntactic pattern Subject + linking verb + adverb + adverb + adjective into Spanish by combining an adverb (sí) with a partial inversion (adverb + adjective + pronoun) with a repetition of the first two elements in the inversion plus the addition of an adjective (bella) as a compliment to the mountain, still within the formal framework of alliteration, but making use of the Latin language features of Spanish as to word order flexibility. When read in Spanish, a native speaker of this language cannot help but “feel” the irony of the repetition and the addition of the compliment, not to mention the excellent poetic “curve” of the whole expression in Spanish!

[7] Addition of a vocative consisting of an ironical señora and a mildly negative adjective: vocinglera (loud, loudmouthed), which allows the verse to rhyme with the

 upcoming esfera (sphere). Due to the scope of this work, it is not possible here to carry out an exhaustive translational-linguistic verse-for-verse analysis, but it is this author’s contention that Martí, perhaps unconsciously, has introduced this slightly insulting addition as a compensation for the added “compliment” in the above verses.

[8] Another instance of Martí’s deep knowledge of Spanish. Tilde, in its commonest use in Spanish, means the mark over a letter (consonant in Spanish, vowel in Portuguese: ñ/señor; pão) to indicate certain sounds or nasalization. However, in a less common usage, tilde also means fault, blemish. This is the sense expressed by Marti’s choice of tilde here.

[9] To occupy my place, an infinitive plus a noun phrase functioning as its direct object becomes por ocupar un puesto tan humilde, an adverbial phrase. In this author’s opinion, we are here in the presence of a “free” translation combined with an addition and an explicitation. Ocupar mi lugar, a literal translation, would imply in Spanish that the squirrel realizes it is not her place to be even close to the mountain, let alone argue with it. It would not be consistent with the previous verses and the “smartness” attributed to the perky squirrel. Un puesto tan humilde, (such a humble place) however, is indeed consistent with the rest of the poem and the non-submissive spirit the squirrel has shown so far. There is no shame in being small or humble, whereas there could indeed be shame or loss of dignity in accepting the mountain’s arrogance and scorn without a fight.

Explicitation occurs when the laconic phrase in English is transformed into a perfectly valid, brief explanation in Spanish (tan humilde), thus clarifying the point of view of the speaker (the squirrel) in Spanish.

[10] Martí here modulates the expression not half so spry into ni a gimnástica me enseña (You can’t teach me gymnastics, meaning “you can’t teach me how to move, how to be agile, how to be lively.”). Although double in duration of oral time units, from a stylistic point of view, the Spanish text feels perhaps, to a native speaker, livelier than the original text may feel to a native speaker of English.

[11] Addition. Martí makes the squirrel truly compliment the mountain here by praising its (her in Spanish, since montaña is a feminine gender noun, same as ardilla) side. There is also a very nice, subtle choice of words here: Instead of using ladera, which is another word for mountainside, Martí chose falda, which is as correct as the former, but also suggests the meaning of skirt, consistent with the mountain gender in Spanish. By using falda instead of ladera, Martí is also paving the way for the use of espalda (back) two verses below, for a perfect rhyme.

In spite of a few –necessary, in this author’s opinion—additions and the normal “expansion” of the target text in Spanish (and in other languages) when translating from English, at the end of his translation, Martí has successfully managed to keep his translation poem just three verses longer than Emerson’s original. Emerson’s 106 English words have been translated into 127 Spanish words by Martí, for a “normal,” even minimal expansion (Eduardo González, 2003: 184-185). 

As to the resulting translation text, De la Cuesta (1996: 110-111) considers this a translation and not an adaptation, and bases his criterion on the fact that Martí follows the original text verse by verse. He also considers Martí’s register in this translation work “a little more formal” than Emerson’s original text. This author begs to differ concerning the definition of translation vs. adaptation. If by adaptation we are to understand free translation, then it follows that translation is to be understood as literal translation. In this author’s opinion, what Martí accomplished in this work was an adequate, free-within-some limits translation which, paraphrasing his own words, reads as if it was written originally in Spanish (the translation or target language). The examples analyzed above should suffice to substantiate this point.

Following De la Cuesta’s reasoning, it is much “easier” to create an adaptation of a literary text in prose than in verse. Martí’s choice and use of lexical and semantic elements to preserve content, while presenting the reader with almost exactly the same formal phenomena as in the original, including the time units, is evidence of his mastery of translation, both as an art and as a science (Elide Valarini, Translation: 17). In this regard, the so-called “respect for the original text” concept used by some translation critics, although masterfully accomplished by Martí in the above example, is extremely relative in itself. On the concept of definitive text (meaning the final resulting translation text) Jorge Luis Borges, himself not only a great writer, but also a translator and polyglot,

stated that “There are only rough drafts. The concept of the definitive text only applies to religion or to fatigue.” (Valarini, 2005: 25-26; her translation of Borges’s statement in “Las versiones homéricas” in 1957 Discusión:106). Based on this lapidary statement by Borges, Martí’s translation text is no definitive text, but the question then arises: Is there ever one, or just more or less excellent approximations? Even many prestigious authors do not consider their original writings as “definitive” texts!

One final, technical point on the previous analysis: Some authors use the term addition to refer to a wrong translation procedure, i.e., where something unnecessary is added in the translation text. Some of those authors use the term explicitation for “correct addition.” This author prefers to use addition as a right procedure and “unnecessary addition” when the procedure is wrong or its result is not beneficial to the resulting translation text.

In conclusion, this author considers it pertinent to add the profession of translator to Martí’s biography, an aspect which, unfortunately, has not been widely recognized, except perhaps in De la Cuesta’s excellent book about the Cuban patriot. The Cuban National Hero, el apóstol (as he was usually referred to in pre-1959 Cuba and still is among Cubans in exile) was a man who largely transcended his well known political life, his multiple sacrifices –ultimately his life—for Cuba’s independence from Spain and its motherland’s need to remain friendly to but independent from the US.

José Martí was undoubtedly a man of his time, yet a very respectful student of the past and an outstanding builder of the future. His profound love for liberty and humanity, a virtue that should adorn any intellectual worker who strives to reach a wide audience, can be characterized by the following quotations: Of the Americas, he wrote: “In America (that is, the Americas) the only foreigner is the master’s soul, something ridiculous, abominable and dishonest which still remains from ancient times.” Likewise, he stated: “The leaders’ greatness is not to be found in themselves, but in the extent to which they serve their own people.” Concerning reading and education, he affirmed: “To read is to grow, to improve one’s lot, to better one’s soul” and “A nation of educated people will always be a nation of free people.” (La Edad de Oro, 1995: 204, 215, 216, my translations). These are but a few brief examples of Martí as a very profound human being.

Alfonso Ortega Carmona, Chair of Poetry and Dean of the Trilingual Philology Division in Salamanca, in 1996 described Martí as follows: “The prodigy of a brilliant spirit who, when facing different language models, was able to instill a new life in them and, frequently, enrich their original value.” (De la Cuesta, Epílogo,1996: 235; my translation). This author would find it very difficult to add much to such a praiseworthy criterion about the Cuban patriot as a linguist and translator, except perhaps that José Martí, through his translation work, his choice of authors to translate and the breadth of his translations remains today, more than a century after his physical death, an example for translators and linguists all over the world. He showed that it is possible to combine multiple professions and occupations, do one’s utmost for the motherland and still be a wonderful human being.

Eduardo González Muñiz
Language Professor
Senior Fulbright Scholar
U.S. Certified Federal Court Interpreter


Bibliography Consulted

De la Cuesta, Leonel A. 1996. Martí, traductor. Universidad pontificia de Salamanca. Delisle, J, Lee-Jahnke, 

H, Cormier, Monique C., 1999. Translation Terminology. Amsterdam: John Benjamins  Publishing.

González, Eduardo. 2006 “Translators and Interpreters in Europe and the U.S.:  Luxury or Necessity?” 2005 European Studies Conference   Selected Proceedings, University of Nebraska, Omaha.  Electronic publication in the Web.

____________. 2005. “Creatore vs. Traditore: Borges, Reiss and Others on the Translator’s Role” Confluencia, Vol. 21, No. 1, Fall

____________. 2003. “The Time Factor in Interpreters’ Training.” ATA 43rd Conference Proceedings: Atlanta, ATA.

Menocal y Cueto, R. 1947.Origen y desarrollo del pensamiento cubano (Origin and Development of Cuban Thinking). Havana: Editorial Lex.

Martí, José. 1995. La edad de oro. Séptima reedición. Miami: Ediciones Universal

_____________. 1975. Obras completas. La Habana: Ciencias Sociales.

Pérez, Louis A Jr. 1995. José Martí in the United States: The Florida experience. Tempe: ASU Center for Latin American Studies.

Tellechea, Manual A. 1997. Versos Sencillos/Simple Verses, José Martí, Arte Público Press, University of Houston

Valarini Oliver, Elide. 2005 “Creative Translation, Transcreation or Simply Translation: How Can Literature Be Translated?” in Translation, Volume 1. University of California, Santa Barbara

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1989. Webster’s Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language, New York, Random House.

2000. Webster’s New World College Dictionary, Cleveland, IDG Books.

Published - September 2008

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