Farewell to Juan Almeida


9-15-09, 9:22 am

Original source: CubaNews

We Cubans have lost one of our more beloved and popular heroes.

Commandante Juan Almeida Bosque, was born 82 years ago, the second of twelve children of a family with modest economic resources, but high patriotic values. He was a construction worker when he became part of the group that, headed by Fidel Castro, assaulted the Moncada barracks on July 26, 1953 to begin a struggle that would culminate on January 1, 1959 with the people reaching political power.

He was a military and political leader with very high and complex responsibilities after the victory of the Revolution.

He fulfilled them all, wholeheartedly expressing his loyalty to the revolutionary project and to Fidel Castro’s leadership. This earned him the admiration and respect of his colleagues, and the extraordinary sympathy of the popular masses which was his until his last breath.

The note released by the party and the government on Almeida's passing emphasizes that 'his special human and artistic sensibility made it possible for him to simultaneously fulfill the intense, responsible and fertile work of a revolutionary leader, and a valuable and meticulous artistic production, which includes more than 300 songs and a dozen books, which are an invaluable contribution to the study of our history.'

This trait that we Cubans find so natural is not easy to understand by others not belonging to our country.

In 1960, being the Cuban Foreign Ministry's Protocol Director at the time, the newly appointed Ambassador of an East European country on his courtesy visit to  Commander Almeida, then head of the Ejercito Rebelde.

This was one of the diplomat's first visits to high level Cuban government officials. He spoke almost perfect Spanish, which he had learned as a member of the international brigades that defended the Spanish republic against fascism.

During the trip by car from the Ministry of Foreign Relations to the Army headquarters, the European ambassador requested, and obtained from me, information on the military and revolutionary life of one who was a member of the Moncada Barracks assault team, a member of the Granma yacht expedition, and founder and head of the Third Eastern Front of the Ejercito Rebelde in the Sierra Maestra.

When I spoke of the valor, discipline and modesty that made Almeida one of the dearest heroes of the revolution, I also mentioned, because it seemed important to me to characterize his sensitive personality, that the Comandante was a musical composer.

After the presentations and the welcoming words of Almeida, the ambassador expressed his feelings of solidarity with the Cuban revolution and his thanks for the opportunity to  meet one of its main leaders.

Making use of his recently acquired information, the ambassador talked about Almeida’s political-revolutionary record, and, concluded, in the spirit of emphasizing his sympathy for him, his professed great admiration for 'the war songs you compose.'

Commandant Almeida, without batting an eyelash, answered he was thankful for the diplomat's declaration of solidarity with the Cuban revolution and, with a smile on his face that showed he understood, explained to him that although he had made war… he composed love songs.

The diplomat blushed.

Without another word on the matter, the conversation proceeded along the lines of the perspectives of relations between the nation represented by the ambassador and Cuba and it ended half hour later, with a cordial good bye.

The moment we sat in the automobile for the return trip, the European diplomat told me: 'You were scanty in his praise. He is an extraordinary man. No wonder he writes songs of love.'

When in Mexico, the revolutionaries gathered by Fidel Castro got ready to surreptitiously embark to Cuba in the Granma yacht to undertake the risky mission that their consciences dictated to them. Almeida, preparing his rifle for the liberation war for his homeland, composed a love song that today, half a century later, is still a song to the homeland, to love, to the revolution and to Cubans’ friendship with Mexico that Cubans will never stop singing or listening to remembering its creator.

--A CubaNews translation by Giselle Gil. Edited by Walter Lippmann.