Felix Varela was born in Havana on November 20
1788. He spent his childhood in St. Augustine.
He was sent to Havana to study at the San Carlos Seminary, and
years later he would become its most brilliant professor.
In 1811, Varela was named Professor of Philosophy in the Seminary
of San Carlos and San Ambrosio of Havana. On this year he also became a
In Cuba, Varela was the leading educator, philosopher and patriot
of his time - he taught Philosophy, Chemistry, Physics, Theology and Music.
Many future Cuban leaders were his students. He argued for giving women the
same education as men, and introduced many teaching innovations.
In 1816, a compilation of earlier written works was published under
the title "Doctrinas de Lógica, Megafisica y Moral" (Doctrines in Logic,
Moral and Metaphysical.
On July 31 1816 Varela delivered his admission speech at the
Sociedad Económica Amigos del País.
In 1821 Varela was elected to the Spanish Cortes (the legislature),
and he recommended that Spanish colonies in Latin America be considered
independent. He also asked for Cuban self-rule and an end to slavery.
Two years later, in 1823, the Spanish Crown condemned him to death,
but he escaped and made his way to New York, where he arrived in December 1823.
He lived the rest of his life in the U.S.
He was assigned to a parish in New York in the Irish section, and
even though there were many racial/ethnic problems at the time, he became a
defender of immigrant rights and of the poor Irish immigrants. He led his
ministry as priest for over 25 years.
In 1824 he began to publish an independent journal: El
Habanero, which ran for 7 issues and was regularly smuggled into Cuba.
Varela became Vicar General of the Diocese of New York in 1837. At
that time, this title also covered the whole state of New York and New Jersey.
Varela died on February 25 1853, in St. Augustine, Florida.
(Martí was born the same year.) His remains were moved to Havana on
August 22 1912, and buried at Aula Magna, near Havana University.
In 1988, on the bicentennial of his birth, the U.S. postal serviced
issued a $0.32 stamp in his name.