Look at me, mother, and for your love do not cry:
If slave of my age and my doctrines
Your martyr heart filled with thorns,
Think that they are born among thorns flowers.
This is how José Martí expresses himself in his famous poem To my Mother, written on August 28th , 1870, when he was serving his sentence in the Departmental Prison of Havana accused of infidelity.
With these moving verses, the apostle of Cuba paints once again the love and respect he felt for Leonor Pérez. She tried to give him encouragement because, logically, she suffered from the situation in which her only son, who had been arrested since October 1869, was found.
The touching text accompanies the historical portrait that was made with only 17 years looking at the camera, shaved, wearing prison uniform, chained with shackles and showing the atrocity of the colonial prisons of the time.
The verses to his mother he writes them at the foot of a copy of that photo of him that he then sends from prison to his beloved mother. For several months he had suffered from confinement, first in the jail of Havana and then in the Departmental Prison.
To this it was added that since he was convicted in April he had also had to face the great nightmare of forced labor in San Lázaro Quarries.
But neither isolation nor forced labor had been able to break his integrity. On the contrary, this stage of Marti’s life served to grow in him his love for his homeland and reaffirm his conviction of solidarity with the pain of others rather than his own, which he had to face and suffer in a personal capacity.
They were, undoubtedly, the indefatigable efforts of Leonor, supported by her husband, who would seek the transfer of their child imprisoned from the quarries to the cigar store and from there to be deported to the Isle of Pines first and, finally, to Spain.
Marti’s evaluation of her is expressed in the dedication that she writes to him in a copy of her Simple Verses: «To my mother, brave and most noble».
During his life the national hero of Cuba regretted not having been able to take care of his mother as he would have liked. However, we know that he always tried to help her materially. Leonor would have wanted something else from her son. Martí himself wrote to Juan Santos Fernández on November 18th , 1894, about Leonor: «Treat her well, you can see that she has no son. The one who gave her nature is using the last years of his life to see how he saves the older mother. »
But Leonor, in her loving complaint, knows her son’s commitment to his homeland. From a link in the chain of iron that he dragged in prison, she ordered a ring that in the upper part had the name of Cuba inscribed and handed it to him in November 1887 when she visited him in New York. Since then, Martí took him with him until his death.