This moving interview with Juan Almeida Bosque, one of the very few remaining Commandantes of the Cuban Revolution, who died a week ago last Friday, was filmed 33 years ago. Subtitles are, unfortunately, a little bit complicated to master, so you’ll have to wait a bit for those. In the meantime you can at least watch the video with an English transcript in hand (thanks to Manuel Talens for the Spanish transcription). The emotion transcends any language barrier. The song Almeida mentions: La Lupe, sung by Silvio Rodríguez, follows.
Almeida: Well, Santiago, I was a revolutionary who was committed to my movement. We’d gotten out of Isla de Pinos and we continued in the same kinds of situations for which we’d attacked the Moncada and spent 22 months in the Isla de Pinos prison, and Fidel had left for Mexico along with another group of compañeros, Raúl and others, and I decided to rejoin my compañeros. I took off on a boat; I’d talked with Yeyé and told her to help me get a passport – she worked in José Manuel Gutiérrez’s firm. They asked me for a passport, I worked in various ways to come up with the money to go, I talked to my old man – he was the first to give me money so that I could go – other compañeros, and we put together some dollars and we left; compañero Darío López, the Gallego they called him, and another compañero who died in the landing, compañero Cabrera.
We left, and we arrived at Veracruz, and from Veracruz, we arrived by train in Mexico City, and, I’m going to tell you something frankly and I’m going to talk about something that I have experienced all my life, and it would be dishonorable if I didn’t say it: I felt for the first time, in Mexico, like a human being. I’m going to explain what that means. At that time, you remember how blacks lived here, in this country (Cuba). If you went to a bar, they turned it into a Club, so you couldn’t go in. All the limitations, the lessons, the relations, it was a tough situation. And in Mexico, honestly, in a group of compañeros and there in the Mexican capital, I felt as though I could move around like a human being, I went to the places I’d longed to go. It wasn’t like here, where you had to first think about where you were going and once you got there, whether they’d let me in. That was one of the best moments that I felt in my life. Emotional and transcendental moments? Those I’ve had throughout this entire process. I couldn’t tell you which has been the most transcendental for me, nor the most important; everything has been moving, I put my will into everything, I’ve left personal things behind, everything has been on behalf of the Revolution. I gave my youth for the process and my old age, well, I’ll continue giving those years for the Revolution as well.
Interviewer: And this old age is hardly upon you…
Almeida: Well, no, but I’m not that young either, next year I’ll turn 50 already.
Interviewer: Before Moncada and the Granma, what kind of work did you do?
Almeida: I was a mason, I worked for awhile in a masonry, other times I built cement forms, but well, more or less that was my…
Interviewer: And you had a talent for music.
Almeida: Yes, but that I had since the age of 14; what happened was that I started to write verses, then I saw that nothing happened with the verses and so I put them to music, and with music still nothing happened, because I went to the radio stations at the time, the CMQ, with my piano pieces to see if they had any interest and nobody was interested. So the revolutionary process had to take place for me to be known, for me to know myself (wide smile) as a composer. The most emotional piece for me is the one to do with the gratitude that I explained to you, that made me feel like a human being; it was dedicated to a woman in Mexico, to Lupe…(opening chords). There I talked about things to do with her, and the things that had influenced me to write that song in that country. And now it is dedicated not just to that Mexican woman, but to all Mexican women. And to Mexico.