Building peace in the minds of men and women

International UNESCO/José Martí Prize

Laureate 2019 - Roberto Fernández Retamar (Cuba)

Roberto Fernández Retamar is the laureate of the 2019 International UNESCO/José Martí Prize in recognition of his advocacy work for justice, the rights of children, ethical values, the dignity of each man and woman and the fight against racism.

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The purpose of the International UNESCO/José Martí Prize is to promote and reward an activity of outstanding merit in accordance with the ideals and spirit of José Martí.

By embodying a nation’s aspiration to sovereignty and its struggle for liberty, this activity has contributed, in any region of the world, to the unity and integration of the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean and to the preservation of their identities, cultural traditions, and historical values. The International UNESCO/José Martí Prize was instituted in November 1994 by the Executive Board at the initiative of the Government of Cuba. In creating the Prize, the Members of the Executive Board recognized the universality and supreme value of the ideals of José Martí, the apostle of liberty.

Laureates are awarded a diploma and a monetary award of US$ 5,000.



José Martí (Havana, 28 January 1853 - Dos Ríos, 19 May 1895) was a great apostle and a man of action, recognized as the intellectual author of the liberation of Cuba. A political thinker and eminent writer, he was also the chief precursor of the literary movement called "modernismo".

From a very early age, Martí fought in word and deed for the independence of Cuba, the unity of Latin America and the Caribbean and the ideal of universal concord. His ideas brought him imprisonment, torture, and exile to Spain, where he studied at the Universities of Madrid and Zaragoza. A wanderer by force of circumstance, he traveled in Europe, the United States, and Latin America. He was a journalist - the first to cover the region as a press correspondent - and founded various newspapers and reviews. His collected works, comprising 28 volumes, reveal the many facets of his outstanding intellectual abilities as poet, educator, diplomat, leader and revolutionary ideologist. José Martí gave his life during the war of independence of 1895.

"There is an accumulation of essential truths that would fit on to a hummingbird’s wing and yet they hold the key to civic peace, spiritual elevation, and national greatness … People must live in the natural and inescapable enjoyment of freedom, just as they enjoy light and air ... [and] being educated is the only way to be free."

These words by the champion of Cuban independence, José Martí, appear in a fine article on education, published in New York over a century ago. With his keen teacher’s intuition, Martí appreciated that education and broad-based training provision for young people would play a decisive role in securing the future of the newly formed Latin American republics.

He returned to the subject on countless occasions, but for now, we should like to refer only to his words on the teaching of science, which, at the time was only just beginning to be included in the curriculum:

"This straightforward and wholesome form of education; this application of intelligence to seeking and finding answers to questions about the natural world; this calm employment of the mind in research [is what] we desire in all the newly formed countries of Latin America".

"Profile: José Martí, 1853-95" in Prospects: quarterly review of education, XIV



2019 - Roberto Fernández Retamar (Cuba) 

2016 - Alfonso Herrera Franyutti (Mexico)

2013 - Frei Betto, Dominican friar (Brazil)

2009 - Atilio Alberto Borón, political scientist (Argentina)

2005 - H.E. Mr Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías, President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela

2003 - Pablo Gonzalez Casanova, sociologist (Mexico)

1999 - Posthumous laureate: Oswaldo Guayasamín, painter (Ecuador)

 Honourable mentions: Milagros Palma Guzmán, researcher (Nicaragua) and Georges Anglade, university professor (Haiti)

1995 - Celsa Albert Batista, historian specialized in Latin American studies (Dominican Republic)

More information on the Laureates



In October 2012, UNESCO Director-General Ms Irina Bokova appointed the Jury of the Prize, for a six-year term of office (2012-2018). The jury members are prestigious figures from three regions, closely related to the ideals of José Martí.


  • H.E. Mr. Pedro de Verona Rodrigues Pires, former President of Cape Verde, winner of the 2011 Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership; holder of the “José Martí Order”, the highest Cuban distinction.

Latin America and the Caribbean

  • Prof. (Ms) Suzy Castor, Haïti, intellectual and historian, founder of the Journal Rencontres and founder of CRESFED (Centre de recherche et de formation économique et sociale pour le développement, Haïti).
  • Dr Armando Hart Dávalos, Cuba, former Minister of Education, former Minister of Culture, Director, Oficina del Programa Martiano.

North America/Western Europe

  • Prof. (Ms) Anne Fountain, United States of America, World Languages and Literatures, San José State University, California; renowned English translator of José Martí’s poetry.
  • Mr Ignacio Ramonet, Spain and France, intellectual, writer, journalist, former director of Le Monde diplomatique, founder of ATTAC; co-founder of the World Social Forum of Porto Alegre; president of Association Mémoire des Luttes.



Anna Maria Majlöf
Secretary of the International UNESCO/José Martí Prize
Social and Human Sciences Sector - UNESCO
7 place de Fontenoy
75352 Paris 07 SP FRANCE
Tel.: +33 (0)1 45 68 17 77
E-mail: am.majlof(at)